US Stocks Inch Higher On Earnings, Merger News

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stocks are inching higher Thursday as traders respond to generally positive corporate earnings results. DreamWorks soared on a report that Hasbro is trying to buy the movie company. The price of oil fell to a four-year low.

KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose less than one point to 2,038 as of 12:09 p.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 41 points, or 0.2 percent, to 17,653. The Nasdaq composite rose five points, or 0.1 percent, to 4,680.

EARNINGS: Wal-Mart Stores jumped $2.88, or 3.6 percent, to $82.08, after reporting earnings and revenue that were higher than what financial analysts had expected. Media conglomerate Viacom, which owns the Paramount studio, MTV and VH1, rose $3.17, or 4.6 percent, to $72.42 after its own results topped forecasts.

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TOY TIE-UP: Shares of DreamWorks Animation surged $3.63, or 16 percent, to $26 on a New York Times report that the toy maker Hasbro was in "advanced talks" to buy the movie company. A representative for DreamWorks, known for movie franchises "Shrek" and "Madagascar," did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Hasbro said it does not comment on rumors or speculation.

BUFFETT BUYS BATTERIES: Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway is buying the Duracell battery business from Procter & Gamble in a deal valued at about $3 billion. Berkshire rose 0.6 percent. P&G, the world's biggest consumer products maker, slipped 0.2 percent..

BURYING THE HATCHET WITH HACHETTE: Amazon rose 1.5 percent following news that it had resolved a bitter, long-running dispute with the book publisher Hachette. Amazon rose $4.58 to $316.10.

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JOBS AND JAPAN: Applications for U.S. unemployment benefits rose 12,000 last week. The increase is not considered sharp enough to derail the labor market's overall improvements. More positive figures came from Japan, which said its machinery orders rose in October in a sign of growing investment. Excluding shipbuilding and electricity, orders rose 2.9 percent over the previous month, defying predictions of a decline.

EUROPE: Germany's DAX and Britain's FTSE 100 each gained 0.4 percent. France's CAC-40 rose 0.2 percent.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude fell further on expectations of strong supplies, shedding $1.69 to $75.49 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The price is at a four-year low as supplies rise.

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BONDS: U.S. government bond prices were little changed. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note held steady at 2.36 percent.

         – by AP Reporter Bernard Condon

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