Stocks open higher after economic data

April 12th, 2012


NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — Stocks edged higher at the open Thursday as worries about Europe took a backseat to U.S. economic and corporate results.

The Dow Jones industrial average (INDU) rose 21 points, or 0.2%, the S&P 500 (SPX)gained 2 points, or 0.1%, and the Nasdaq (COMP) added 5 points, or 0.2%.

Thursday will offer more corporate results to help gauge the health of the U.S. economy. Rite Aid reported quarterly results before the open in line with expectations, and Google (GOOG, Fortune 500) will announce its results after markets close.

U.S. stocks closed higher Wednesday, bouncing back after a string of five down days, as concerns about Europe eased and hopes for a better-than-expected earnings season rose.

Aluminum producer Alcoa (AA, Fortune 500) led Wednesday’s gains after reporting a surprise first-quarter profit late Tuesday. Meanwhile, stocks in Europe rallied as investors welcomed declining yields on Spanish and Italian bonds.

Despite the gains, it’s been a rough stretch lately for U.S. stocks, with the major indexes down more than 3% this month.

Economy: The Labor Department reported that initial jobless claims rose unexpectedly to 380,000 in the latest week, up from a revised reading of 367,000, which was also revised higher.

But separate reports showed no increase in overall wholesale prices in March, which was better than the 0.2% increase forecast, and the nation’s trade deficit declined unexpectedly in February.

Companies: Shares of McKesson (MCK, Fortune 500) popped after the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs awarded the wholesale pharmaceutical company a contract worth about $4 billion a year to supply medication to VA facilities.

Rite Aid (RAD, Fortune 500) shares fell slightly after the drugstore chain reported a quarterly loss of 18 cents a share on $7.1 billion in revenue, in line with expectations.

Shares of Royal Dutch Shell (RDSA) dropped after the company said it had activated an oil spill response vessel to investigate a “light sheen” of oil spotted in the Gulf of Mexico.

Sony (SNE) said Thursday that it would be cutting 10,000 jobs during the 2012 fiscal year as it seeks to revitalize its struggling business. The electronics maker warned earlier this week that its annual loss would be twice as large as its prior forecast, blaming write-offs of deferred tax credits.

Oaktree Capital Group (OAK) will start trading under the ticker OAK after the asset management firm raised $378 million through an initial public offering Wednesday. Oaktree sold 8.8 million shares at $43 apiece, the low end of its estimated range.

World markets: European stocks were little changed in afternoon trading. Britain’s FTSE 100 (UKX) was down 0.2%, while the DAX (DAX) in Germany was flat and France’s CAC 40 (CAC40) ticked down by 0.07%.

Asian markets finished higher. The Shanghai Composite (SHCOMP) rose 1.8%,  the Hang Seng (HSI) in Hong Kong climbed 0.9% and Japan’s Nikkei (N225) gained 0.7%.

Currencies and commodities: The dollar slipped against the euro and the British pound but gained against the Japanese yen.

Oil for May delivery rose 8 cents to $102.78 a barrel.

Gold futures for April delivery fell $5.30 to $1,653.80 an ounce.

Bonds: The price on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury was little changed, with the yield holding near 2.03%. To top of page