Dow scores record close

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Dow Jones industrial average rose on Thursday as a fresh wave of better-than-expected profits from such companies as 3M Co. MMM.N and Exxon Mobil Corp. XOM.N propelled the blue-chip index to its second straight close above 13,000.

A stock ticker is seen at the New York Stock Exchange April, 25, 2007. REUTERS/Chip East

But after the prior session’s big run-up, which took the broader market to its highest level in more than six years, some investors opted to lock in profits, causing the S&P 500 to dip into the red by the close.

Surprisingly strong earnings from Apple Inc. AAPL.O helped extend Wednesday's multi-year highs for the Nasdaq and the S&P 500 during the session.

The advance was also tempered by caution ahead of Friday’s data on economic growth and wage inflation, which could offer clues to the outlook for interest rates.

“Earnings continue to come out strongly from a variety of different sources. Apple reported with a great number, you had 3M with a good number this morning and better-than-expected from Ford,” said William Knapp, investment strategist for MainStay Investments in New York.

“Looking ahead, the GDP number is going to be an important number to watch.”

The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI finished up 15.61 points, or 0.12 percent, at 13,105.50. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index .SPX ended down 1.17 points, or 0.08 percent, at 1,494.25. The Nasdaq Composite Index .IXIC closed up 6.57 points, or 0.26 percent, at 2,554.46.

Thursday’s gains sent the Dow to its 36th record close since the beginning of last October, when it first crossed the 12,000 threshold, and its second such feat since crossing 13,000 on Wednesday.

Shares of 3M, a Dow component whose products include Scotch tape and Post-It notes, contributed the most to the Dow’s advance, finishing up 4.5 percent at $80.45 on the New York Stock Exchange.

3M’s rise also helped the Dow climb to an intraday all-time peak of 13,132.80.

Exxon Mobil, another Dow component, posted a quarterly profit that beat analysts’ estimates and its shares ended up 0.8 percent at $80.55 on the NYSE. Exxon shares earlier set a record high, at $80.86, for the second straight day.


Shares of Apple, the maker of the iPod and MacIntosh computers, rose 3.7 percent to end at $98.84. Apple shares marked their biggest advance since January. During the session, Apple’s shares hit a record high of $102.50.

After the bell, Microsoft Corp. MSFT.O reported profits that beat estimates, which could underpin the technology sector on Friday. Shares of the world's biggest software maker, a Dow component, rose 3 percent in after-hours trade from a Nasdaq close of $29.10.

Microsoft’s move helped Nasdaq futures tick higher.

Shares of Inc. BIDU.O were another after-the-bell standout, rising more than 19 percent to $130 after the Chinese Web search leader also posted better-than-expected results.

But shares of SanDisk Corp. SNDK.O, a maker of flash memory for cell phones and digital cameras, dropped more than 6 percent to $42.35 after the company posted a quarterly loss, reversing a year-earlier profit. <ID:nN26451419>

In other corporate news, Ford Motor Co. F.N posted a first-quarter loss that was smaller than analysts expected, and its shares ended up 4.1 percent at $8.20 on the NYSE. Shares of rival General Motors Corp. GM.N ended up 4.4 percent at $32.45, making the stock the second biggest advancer on the Dow behind 3M.

The biggest drag on the S&P 500 was Comcast Corp. CMCSA.O, whose shares finished down 3.5 percent at $27.10 on the Nasdaq, after the leading U.S. cable operator's reported in-line results, disappointing investors who had expected an even stronger performance.

Through Thursday, 289 S&P 500 companies have reported results, with 69.20 percent beating estimates, 17.7 percent missing estimates and 13.2 percent matching estimates.

About 1.70 billion shares changed hands on the NYSE, below last year’s estimated daily average of 1.84 billion, while on the Nasdaq about 2.51 billion shares traded, above last year’s daily average of 2.02 billion.

Declining stocks outnumbered advancing ones by a ratio of about 7 to 6 on the NYSE and by about 9 to 8 on Nasdaq.

Friday’s reports on first-quarter U.S. gross domestic product and employment costs are due for release before the market open at 8.30 a.m. (1230 GMT).