By STEVE ROTHWELL, AP Markets Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — Gains for financial companies helped push the stock market toward its biggest gain in almost two weeks on Thursday. Financial stocks were boosted by strong third-quarter earnings reports from Citigroup and regional lender KeyCorp.
KEEPING SCORE: The Standard Poor’s 500 index rose 21 points, or 1.1 percent, to 2,015 as of 2:35 p.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones industrial average climbed 156 points, or 0.9 percent, to 17,080. The Nasdaq composite rose 56 points, or 1.2 percent, to 4,839.
EARNINGS WATCH: Investors are focusing on third-quarter earnings. Citigroup climbed $2.18, or 4.3 percent, to $52.89 after it reported that its earnings jumped in the third quarter as the bank continued to cut expenses and clean up its books in the wake of the financial crisis. KeyCorp rose 62 cents, or 4.9 percent, to $13.33 after the lender said that
Netflix slumped $9.09, or 8.2 percent, to $101.21 after it reported late Wednesday that it is hooking fewer U.S. viewers than it hoped. Hospital shares dropped after HCA said that its earnings would likely fall short of analysts’ expectations.
FED FOCUS: The Federal Reserve is back in focus as the main driver in financial markets. Though policymakers opted against raising interest rates in September following signs of weakness in China’s economy, most traders thought a December was still a strong possibility. After a run of reports that are showing some weakness in the economy, many investors are now thinking the Fed will hold its benchmark lending rate close to zero for the rest of this year.
THE QUOTE: Investors have been grappling with conflicting signals about the economy in recent weeks, said JJ Kinahan, chief strategist at TD Ameritrade.
A report Thursday showed that the number of Americans seeking unemployment aid fell last week, matching the lowest level in 42 years. That suggests employers remain confident enough in the economy to hold onto their staffs. However, a Fed survey on Wednesday showed that U.S. manufacturing is struggling, in part due to the strength of the dollar.
“The numbers today continue to confound,” Kinahan said. “Overall, you are seeing this slow, steady growth, but there are pockets of optimism.”
COOLING IPO MARKET: First Data, an electronic payment company based in Atlanta, raised $2.6 billion in an initial public offering. That made it the largest U.S. listed IPO since Paramount Group raised $2.6 billion in November last year, according to data provider Dealogic. The stock priced at $16 and edged up 9 cents, or 0.6 percent, in its first day of trading.
METALS TRADING: Gold rose $7.70 to $1,187.50 an ounce. The metal has climbed 6 percent this month as doubts about the health of the global economy have resurfaced. Silver rose 4.7 cents to $16.16 an ounce. Copper rose 0.8 cents to $2.42 per pound.
EUROPE’S DAY: Germany’s DAX rose 1.5 percent. Britain’s FTSE 100 advanced 1.2 percent and the French CAC-40 was 1.4 percent higher.
BONDS AND CURRENCIES: Bonds edged lower, pushing the yield on the 10-year note up to 2.02 percent from 1.98 percent on Wednesday. The euro fell to $1.1374 while the dollar edged down to 118.57 yen.
ASIA’S DAY: Japan’s Nikkei 225 rose 1.2 percent while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index jumped 2 percent. The South Korean Kospi added 1.2 percent. The Shanghai Composite Index was up 2.3 percent.
ENERGY: The price of benchmark U.S. crude fell $1.01 to $45.64 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, used to price international oils, dropped 76 cents to $48.91 a barrel in London.
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