Stocks rise as investors focus on solid corporate earnings

Stocks rise as investors focus on solid corporate earnings

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NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stocks rose broadly in midday trading as investors focused on solid earnings from several big companies. The gains were temporarily curtailed earlier by a report that Americans pulled back on signing contracts to buy homes last month.

Apple gained ground after reporting solid profit gains, and industrial stocks also rose. Boeing rose 1.3% and railroads climbed following a good report from Norfolk Southern. General Electric surged 9.6% after a strong showing from its aviation business pushed profits above expectations.

Victoria's Secret parent company L Brands soared following a report that its long-serving CEO might leave.

Homebuilders slumped following the weak housing report. PulteGroup fell 3% and Hovnanian shed 4.1%.

Communications stocks lagged the market. AT&T fell 3.1%.

Wall Street is in the middle of a busy week for corporate earnings. Facebook, Microsoft and Tesla will release earnings later Wednesday. Coca-Cola, UPS, Amazon and Visa will report results on Thursday. Caterpillar and Exxon Mobil will report results on Friday.

The deadly coronavirus is still a potential threat to the global economy, but Wall Street has managed to set aside those concerns, for now. The lockdown in China has trapped more than 50 million people in the most far-reaching disease control measures ever imposed. The outbreak has infected more than 6,000 on the mainland and abroad.

KEEPING SCORE: The S&P 500 index rose up 0.3% as of 11:45 a.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 109 points, or 0.4%, to 28,831. It was up as much as 221 earlier. The Nasdaq rose 0.2%. The Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks fell 0.1%.

Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 1.62%.

European markets rose and Asian markets were mixed. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng fell 2.8% after its markets reopened from Lunar New Year holidays, while other Chinese markets remained closed.

FRESH SCENT: L Brands skyrocketed 13.2% following reports that the owner of Bath & Body Works and Victoria’s Secret could change leadership and sell off some of its parts. The Wall Street Journal reported that Leslie Wexner, who has served as CEO for more than five decades, is in talks to step down. It also said the company is considering a full or partial sale of its lingerie business.

HOLIDAY CRISP: Apple rose 3.1% after a strong holiday season helped propel profits beyond Wall Street forecasts. The iPhone maker’s surprisingly good report marks a turnaround from a year ago when sales of its marquee product appeared to be sliding. The company is also seeing gains in sales of smartwatches, digital services and wireless earbuds.

ON TRACK: Norfolk Southern climbed 7% after the railroad reported surprisingly good fourth-quarter profits on cost cuts. The railroad industry has been experiencing weak demand for freight hauling and the company is trying to operate on a tighter schedule and move more freight with fewer people.

Union Pacific rose 2.2% and CSX climbed 2.4%.

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