US stocks open higher following earnings news

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

NEW YORK (AP) — The U.S. stock market crept up in early trading following a mixed batch of corporate news. In Europe, investors brushed aside soft economic data to push markets modestly higher Thursday.

KEEPING SCORE: As of 9:50 a.m. Eastern time, the Standard & Poor's 500 index was up three points, or 0.2 percent, to 1,950. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 17 points, or 0.1 percent, to 16,670 while the Nasdaq composite climbed four points, or 0.1 percent, to 4,439.

CISCO SLIPS: After the market closed Wednesday, Cisco Systems reported falling quarterly sales and profits. The technology company also announced plans to lay off 6,000 workers, roughly 8 percent of its workforce. Cisco's stock dropped 56 cents, or 2 percent, to $24.64.

JOBS: The Labor Department said more people applied for U.S. unemployment benefits shot up last week. Applications climbed 21,000 to 311,000, and the less volatile four-week average rose, too. But the numbers remain close to levels last seen before the Great Recession.

THE WALL: Wal-Mart Stores posted slightly higher quarterly profits early Thursday but said sales remain sluggish. As a result, the world's largest operator of retail stores trimmed its forecast for full-year earnings. Wal-Mart's stock sank 20 cents, or 0.3 percent, to $73.92.

IN EUROPE: France's CAC 40 rose 0.4 percent and Germany's DAX rose 0.5 percent. Britain's FTSE 100 rose 0.4 percent.

EUROPE'S SLUMP: The advances in Europe came despite figures showing that the two major economies in the 18-country eurozone cast doubt over the recovery. Germany's economy shrank 0.2 percent from April to June, while the French economy stagnated.

ONE TAKE: "Investors appear to be betting that the continued raft of disappointing economic data could compel the European Central Bank to take further steps to help try and boost economic activity before the end of the year," said Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets.

BONDS AND OIL: In the market for US government bonds, the yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.38 percent, its lowest level this year. Benchmark crude oil was down 16 cents to $97.43 on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

CURRENCIES: The euro rose 0.1 percent to $1.3375 while the dollar was little changed at 102.44 yen.