US Stocks Edge Higher In Midday Trading

NEW YORK (AP) — A pickup in U.S. home sales and figures showing a decline in weekly applications for unemployment benefits helped lift stocks in midday trading Thursday. Strong earnings from several retailers also gave markets a boost.


KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose two points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,051 as of 12:13 p.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones industrial average gained three points, or less than 0.1 percent, to 17,689. The Nasdaq composite added 20 points, or 0.4 percent, to 4,695. All three indexes had been lower in early trading.

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HOME SALES: Sales of previously occupied U.S. homes jumped last month to the briskest pace this year. The National Association of Realtors said sales rose 1.5 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.26 million. October marked the first month this year in which sales increased compared with the same period a year ago. The report helped lift the stock prices of many homebuilders. William Lyon Homes led the gainers, adding 80 cents, or 4.2 percent, to $20.06.


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RETAIL STANDOUT: Best Buy reported higher earnings and revenue in the third quarter, beating analysts' forecasts. The results are a positive sign for the electronics retailer as the holiday season kicks off. Best Buy's shares jumped $2.54, or 7.1 percent, to $38.07.


EARNINGS BOOST: Discount retailer Dollar Tree and home decorations chain Kirkland's each bot a boost from better-than-expected quarterly earnings. Dollar Tree gained $3.18, or 5.1 percent, to $65.81. Kirkland's jumped $2.89, or 16 percent, to $20.98.

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SETTLEMENT DIVIDEND: Activision Blizzard vaulted 7.2 percent on news that the videogame maker reached a settlement with Vivendi and others in a shareholder lawsuit and will receive $275 million. Activision rose $1.40 to $20.97.


SECTOR WATCH: Six of the 10 sectors in the S&P 500 index rose, led by energy stocks. Telecommunications stocks declined the most.


BIG DECLINER: Keurig Green Mountain led the decliners in the S&P 500, shedding $10.56, or 6.9 percent, to $143.43.


GLOBAL ECONOMIC WORRIES: A broad gauge of business activity in the 18-country eurozone fell this month to a 16-month low, stirring concerns that the region could be headed for another recession. In China, a preliminary survey of factory activity showed manufacturing in the world's second-largest economy slid to a six-month low this month.


INFLATION IN CHECK: U.S. consumer prices were unchanged in October, as low gasoline costs continued to keep inflation at bay. For the past 12 months, overall inflation is up 1.7 percent, while core inflation, which excludes volatile energy and food prices, is up 1.8 percent. Both gains are below the Federal Reserve's 2 percent inflation target, giving the central bank leeway to keep interest rates low.


LAYOFFS BELLWETHER: The Labor Department said applications for unemployment benefits fell slightly last week to a seasonally adjusted 291,000. The applications, which are a proxy for layoffs, have fallen 16 percent in the past 12 months.


OVERSEAS MARKETS: In Europe, France's CAC 40 dropped 0.8 percent, while Germany's DAX edged up 0.1 percent. Britain's FTSE 100 was off 0.3 percent. In Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 inched up 0.1 percent, while South Korea's Kospi slipped 0.5 percent. China's Shanghai Composite rose 0.1 percent, while Australia's S&P/ASX 200 fell 1 percent. Hong Kong's Hang Seng shed 0.1 percent. Markets in Southeast Asia also fell.


ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude rose 69 cents to $75.19 a barrel in New York.


BONDS: U.S. government bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.34 percent from 2.36 percent late Wednesday.

         – by AP Reporter Alex Veiga

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