NEW YORK - The stock market rose for the fifth time in six days Thursday as higher earnings from several big U.S. companies helped investors shrug off discouraging news about jobs and retail spending.
Goodyear Tire & Rubber surged to its highest level in almost six years after the company's earnings beat analysts' forecasts. CBS also jumped after the broadcaster beat Wall Street's profit expectations and speed up its stock buyback program.
Investors' focus has returned to company earnings after concerns about growth in emerging markets and the health of the U.S. economy pushed the Standard & Poor's 500 index to its lowest level in more than three months at the start of February. Analysts at S&P Capital IQ expect that earnings at companies in the index increased last quarter at the fastest pace in a year.
"The momentum from earnings continues," said Andres Garcia-Amaya, a global market strategist at JPMorgan Funds.
The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 10.57 points, or 0.6 percent, to 1,829.83. The Dow Jones industrial average climbed 63.65 points, or 0.4 percent, to 16,027.59. The Nasdaq composite rose 39.38 points, or 0.9 percent, to 4,240.67.
Stocks also got a lift from deal news.
Time Warner Cable surged $9.50, or 7 percent, to $144.81 after the company agreed to be acquired by rival Comcast for $45.2 billion in stock. The deal would combine the top two cable TV companies in the United States. Comcast fell $2.27, or 4.1 percent, to $52.97.
The biggest gains in the S&P 500 were posted by utility companies. Gains in these stocks suggest investors are looking to play it safe. Utilities don't have the best growth prospects, but they pay steady dividends and operate in stable industries.
Stocks opened lower Thursday following lackluster reports on the U.S. job market and retail sales.
The number of people seeking unemployment benefits rose 8,000 last week to 339,000, the Labor Department said. Economist had forecast claims of just 330,000.
A separate report showed that cold weather caused U.S. retail sales to drop in January as Americans spent less on autos and clothing and at restaurants during a brutally cold month. The Commerce Department says retail sales fell 0.4 percent last month, the second straight decline after a 0.1 percent drop in December.
The stock market inched higher throughout the morning. Major indexes turned positive by late morning as investors assessed a handful of encourage corporate earnings reports.
Goodyear Tire & Rubber surged $2.77, or 11.5 percent, to $26.94 after it reported a big earnings gain. Strong sales in the company's core North American market helped the tire maker's results.
CBS rose $2.76, or 4.5 percent, to $64.61 after reporting fourth-quarter earnings and revenue growth that beat Wall Street's expectations. Advertising revenue was flat, but there was growth in content licensing thanks to the sale of shows such as "Hawaii Five-O" for domestic reruns.
Despite the recent signs of stabilization, the stock market is still going through a pullback driven largely by the Federal Reserve's decision to cut back on its economic stimulus program, said Barry Knapp, the head of U.S. equity portfolio strategy at Barclays.
The stimulus underpinned the stock market's rally last year, but policy makers have reduced it at each of their last two meetings. The Fed has scaled back its bond purchases from $85 billion a month to $65 billion a month.
Typically, pullbacks that are prompted by a change in Fed policy last between two and three month and push stocks lower by as much as 9 percent, according to Knapp.
"It seems a little too soon for (stocks) to have worked their way through this yet," said Knapp. "We don't think the uptrend is going to resume right away, stocks will probably still struggle a bit in the first half of the year."
In government bond trading, the yield on the 10-year note fell to 2.73 percent from 2.76 percent on Wednesday. The price of oil was little changed at $100.35 a barrel. Gold gained $5.10, or 0.5 percent, to $1,300.10 an ounce.
Among other stocks making big moves:
- Whole Foods dropped $4, or 7.2 percent, to $51.46 after the grocery chain reported fiscal first-quarter profit and revenue that came in below analysts' forecasts. The company, known for its organic and natural food offerings, also lowered its earnings projections for the year again as the company faces more and more competition.
- Cisco Systems fell 58 cents, or 2.5 percent, to $22.27, after the company reported late Wednesday that weaker revenue and special charges weighed down its second-quarter earnings.