NEW YORK – Stocks inched higher midday Wednesday, reversing a two-day decline, as the quarterly earnings season got underway with some positive news from the giant aluminum company Alcoa.
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KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average rose 30 points, or 0.2 percent, to 16,937 as of 12:06 p.m. Eastern. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose four points, or 0.2 percent, to 1,968 and the Nasdaq composite rose 17 points, or 0.4 percent, to 4,408.
ALCOA CAN'T WAIT: Alcoa kicked off the second-quarter earnings season late Tuesday, posting a profit of $138 million, better than Wall Street expected. The aluminum giant also reported stronger revenue than analysts estimated. Alcoa rose 71 cents, or 5 percent, to $15.57 on the news.
EXPECTATIONS: As companies begin turning in second-quarter results this week, investors will be looking for signs that the strengthening U.S. economy has translated into higher sales and profits. Analysts expect earnings increased 6.6 percent in the three months through June compared with the previous year, according to S&P Capital IQ, a research firm.
"Stocks are not cheap, and we need to be assured that these companies' growth is going to continue," said Quincy Krosby, market strategist with Prudential Financial.
FED WATCH: At 2:00 p.m. Eastern time, the Federal Reserve will release minutes from its most recent meeting in June. After that meeting wrapped up, the Fed made clear that it sees no need to raise short-term interest rates from record lows anytime soon.
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AAL ABOARD: American Airlines, stock ticker "AAL," rose $1.38, or 3.5 percent to $41.64. The world's largest airline raised its sales forecast for the second quarter, typically the busiest time of year. The news helped lift other airline stocks, including Delta, which rose 1 percent. Airline stocks had taken a beating earlier this week.
BOXED UP: The Container Store, which went public less than a year ago, plunged $2.52, or 9 percent, to $24.55. CEO William Tindell warned that the company was in a "retail funk" and that the sluggish sales of the winter seemed to be lingering into the spring and summer. The Container Store went public at $18 a share in November and its shares doubled in price on the day of its debut to $36.20.
BONDS AND COMMODITIES: As investors were buying stock, they sold bonds. The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note rose to 2.58 percent from 2.56 percent Tuesday. Oil fell $1.06, or 1 percent, to $102.33 as one of Libya's oil fields came back online Wednesday.