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Financials drive Wall St higher; Amazon up late

US stocks rose yesterday after quarterly results from insurer Travelers and regional bank PNC Financial gave a boost to financial stocks.

Financials were among the top gainers after insurer Travelers Cos Inc posted gains after it raised its full-year outlook and regional bank PNC Financial Services Group Inc shares jumped 12.7 percent to US$50.65 on far better-than-expected quarterly earnings.

Adding to the positive tone, New York Fed President William Dudley said the Federal Reserve may not lose money on the emergency programs it put in place to fight the financial crisis.

The S&P financial index added 2.9 percent and the KBW Bank Index jumped 3.4 percent.

Solid earnings from several companies, including Dow components 3M, AT&T and McDonald's Corp lent credence to the idea that corporate profitability has stabilized.

After the closing bell, online retailer posted earnings above expectations and its shares shot up almost 15 percent to US$107.38 in extended trading.

The market has been supported by consistent news of better- than-expected earnings and fairly good guidance, according to Robert Lutts, chief investment officer of Cabot Money Management in Salem, Massachusetts.

"Regional banks came out with OK results. They talked about deterioration in assets definitely at a slower pace and there were indications some parts of the loan books were stabilizing and improving," Lutts said.

The Dow Jones industrial average gained 131.95 points, or 1.33 percent, to 10,081.31. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index rose 11.51 points, or 1.06 percent, to 1,092.91. The Nasdaq Composite Index added 14.56 points, or 0.68 percent, to 2,165.29.


Shares of J Crew Group Inc soared 15.2 percent to US$43.49 after the clothing retailer raised its outlook for the third and fourth quarters, citing stronger-than-expected sales and margin trends expected to last throughout the year.

J Crew led retailers higher, with the S&P retail index up 1.7 percent.

The New York Times Co beat quarterly revenue and profit forecasts because of cost cuts and higher newspaper prices even as advertising sales fell, driving its shares up 22.5 percent to US$10.72.

Shares of home builders also ranked among the top gainers, with the Dow Jones US home construction index up 5.3 percent. Shares of KB Home jumped 7.5 percent to US$16.17 and Pulte Homes gained 6.5 percent to US$10.44.

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan said earlier this week the administration would decide in coming weeks whether it backs an extension of the current tax credit for first-time home buyers, set to expire on Nov. 30.

Volume was moderate on the New York Stock Exchange, with about 1.32 billion shares changing hands, below last year's estimated daily average of 1.49 billion. On the Nasdaq, about 2.30 billion shares traded, slightly above last year's daily average of 2.28 billion.

Advancing stocks outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a ratio of about 2 to 1, while on the Nasdaq, nearly eight stocks rose for every five that fell.


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