* Exxon and Aetna both fall after earnings
* Wal-Mart rebounds from recent declines
* Citrix rallies on earnings, analysts’ comments
* Dow up 0.9 pct, S&P up 0.7 pct, Nasdaq up 0.7 pct
By Caroline Valetkevitch
NEW YORK, April 26 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks rose for a third day on Thursday after upbeat housing data and stronger-than-expected results from companies, including Citrix Systems Inc, overshadowed some high-profile earnings misses.
Pending home sales rose to nearly a two-year high in March, sending the Philadelphia Stock Exchange index of housing-related shares up 3 percent. Shares of homebuilder Lennar climbed 5.7 percent to $27.38. The stock of PulteGroup Inc , the No. 2 U.S. homebuilder, soared 10.1 percent to $9.58 after it reported a narrower-than-expected loss and its biggest jump in new orders in seven years.
The positive news on the housing front helped the market overcome data showing a stumbling labor market recovery as weekly initial jobless claims fell slightly but missed forecasts.
Shares of Citrix shot up 12.4 percent to $86.76 a day after the business software company reported strong net income, prompting analysts to raise estimates.
Among other results, weapons maker Lockheed Martin Corp and online jobs recruiter Monster Worldwide Inc both had higher-than expected earnings. Lockheed added 0.8 percent to $91.70 and Monster leaped 9.7 percent to $8.95.
“You can get cautious right here, but do not get bearish. There are too many good things happening,” said Jeffrey Saut, chief investment strategist of Raymond James Financial in St. Petersburg, Florida.
With 254 companies in the S&P 500 reporting, more than 72 percent have topped estimates, according to Thomson Reuters data. A big beat from Apple Inc drove Wednesday’s rally, which gave the Nasdaq its best day of the year.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 113.90 points, or 0.87 percent, to 13,204.62 at the close. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index advanced 9.29 points, or 0.67 percent, to 1,399.98. The Nasdaq Composite Index gained 20.98 points, or 0.69 percent, to 3,050.61.
Shares of Amazon.com added 0.8 percent to $195.99 ahead of its results, due after the close.
Not everything on the earnings front was rosy. Exxon Mobil Corp and Aetna Inc reported a drop in profits from the year-ago quarter, while United Parcel Service Inc’s revenue missed Wall Street’s expectations.
Exxon fell 0.9 percent to $86.07, Aetna slid 8.2 percent to $45.31 and UPS lost 1.8 percent to $78.25.
Wednesday’s rally helped to purge a lot of April’s losses brought on by investors’ worries over prospects of a seasonally weak market in May as well as signs that Europe’s debt crisis was getting worse.
The S&P 500 closed above its 50-day moving average of 1,382. The benchmark index had pulled back as much as 4.2 percent from its 2012 closing high set on April 2.