Stocks Rise Ahead of Turkey Day

Andrea Tse

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The major U.S. equity averages finished with modest gains Wednesday, taking their cue from a dip in weekly initial jobless claims and improvement in domestic manufacturing data.

Investors shrugged off the latest hiccup in the eurozone as talks between Greece and its lenders about the release of additional bailout funds once again hit an impasse.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose more than 48 points, or 0.38%, to close at 12,837. The blue-chip index has bounced nearly 2% so far this week.

Gainers were well ahead of losers within the Dow, 24 to 6. The top percentage advancers were Hewlett-Packard(:HPQ), Bank of America(:BAC), and Microsoft(:MSFT).

HP shares caught a bounce, rising nearly 2%, following Tuesday's huge drop after the PC giant reported a fiscal fourth-quarter loss amid big accounting problems connected to its acquisition of Autonomy.

Price targets on Hewlett-Packard were cut by Jefferies, RBC and Credit Suisse after company's report.

Dow decliners included du Pont(:DD), Intel(:INTC), and Caterpillar(:CAT).

The S&P 500 rose more than 3 points, or 0.23%, to settle at 1391, while the Nasdaq tacked on nearly 10 points, or 0.34%, at 2927.

The majority of sectors in the broad market closed in the green, led by the consumer cyclicals, technology and services sectors. Only utilities were finished in the red.

Advancers were ahead of decliners by a ratio of 2.1-to-1 on the Big Board and 1.8-to-1 on the Nasdaq. Trading was light ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday with volume totaling 2.65 billion on the New York Stock Exchange and 1.42 billion on the Nasdaq.

Eurozone finance ministers, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank failed at their meeting this week to reach a consensus on how Greece could achieve debt sustainability and a lowering of the financing gap of €14 billion through 2014; they were aiming for an agreement to be reached before unlocking additional financial aid for Greece.

Talks are scheduled to reconvene on Monday.

"It's important to remember that the ultimate goal of these negotiations is to reduce the debt burden to somewhere around 120% of GDP," said Dan Greenhaus, chief global strategist at BTIG. "That is a terribly high number and the math used to get Greece to that debt level is ambitious despite the considerable progress that Greece has made over the last several years."

"Ultimately, we like many others see no way Greece can return to debt sustainability without further write downs of outstanding debt, including obligations in the hands of the public sector," he added.

Meantime, the Labor Department said initial jobless claims for the week ended Nov. 17 fell 41,000 to an as-expected 410,000 from the previous week's upwardly revised figure of 451,000.

The four-week moving average came in at 396,250, an increase of 9,500 from the previous week's average of 386,750.

Continuing claims for the week ended Nov. 10 fell 30,000 to 3.337 million from the prior week's upwardly revised level of 3.367 million. Economists, on average, were expecting continuing claims to come in at 3.345 million.

"Jobless claims remained above the 400k mark despite the sharp 41k drop in the pace of initial jobless filings to 410k," said Millan Mulraine, an economist at TD Securities. "The decline comes on the heels of the upwardly revised pop to 451k the week before. The elevated level of claims is due in part to the continuing impact of Hurricane Sandy, which will likely continue to distort the data for another few weeks."

The Markit Flash U.S. Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index signaled the strongest improvement in U.S. manufacturing business conditions for five months in November.

The preliminary 'flash' PMI reading rose to 52.4 from 51 in October to indicate overall a moderate manufacturing expansion.

"The survey implies that manufacturing output will soon start to expand at a 3m/3m annualized pace of around 3%. Stripping out the short-term boost from Sandy, however, and output is probably flat," commented Paul Dales, an economist at Capital Economics. "That's unlikely to change much when the global economy is set to remain weak."

The final read on the University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index for November came in at 82.7, down from the 84.9 preliminary reading and below the forecast of 84.5.

The Conference Board's leading economic indicators index rose an as-expected 0.2% in October after increasing by a downwardly revised 0.5% in September.

The U.S. stock market is closed Thursday for Thanksgiving and Friday will be an abbreviated trading day.

The FTSE 100 in London closed up 0.07%, while the DAX in Germany finished higher by 0.16%.

Japan's Nikkei average settled up 0.87% on Wednesday and Hong Kong's Hang Seng index closed higher by 1.39%.

Gold for December delivery settled up $4.60 at $1,728.20 an ounce at the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange, while January crude oil contracts closed up 63 cents at $87.38.

The benchmark 10-year Treasury fell 3/32, to raise the yield to 1.682%. The dollar was up 0.04%, according to the U.S. dollar index.

In corporate news, Deere(:DE) shares slid 3.7% after the agricultural equipment maker posted fiscal fourth-quarter earnings below analysts' estimates amid higher production costs and increased selling, administrative and general, and research and development expenses.

The company reported earnings of $1.75 a share on revenue of $9.79 billion; analysts, on average, were expecting a profit of $1.88 a share on revenue of $8.85 billion., the cloud computing company, on Tuesday delivered a 35% year-over-year revenue increase in its latest quarter.

The company reported non-GAAP earnings of $49.6 million, or 33 cents a share, for the third quarter on revenue of $788 million. Analysts expected profit of 32 cents a share on revenue of $776.5 million. forecast non-GAAP earnings of 38 cents to 40 cents a share in its fiscal fourth quarter on revenue ranging from $825 million to $830 million. Wall Street's current consensus view is for a profit of 40 cents a share on revenue of $829.9 million. Shares gained 8.8%.

St. Jude Medical (:STJ) shares tumbled 12.2% after the cardiovascular medical devices company was found by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to have deep flaws in its oversight of the Durata line of implantable defibrillator leads.

MIPS Technologies(:MIPS) shares added 7.1% after the provider of industry-standard processor architectures and cores announced that it has received an unsolicited proposal from CEVA(:CEVA) to acquire all of the company's outstanding shares for $75 million in cash.

Zale(:ZLC), the jewelry retailer, reported a wider-than-expected fiscal first-quarter loss on Tuesday. Zale said it expects to be profitable for fiscal 2013. Shares plunged 30%.

Scholastic(:SCHL), the publishing company, lowered its fiscal-year outlook after Tuesday's closing bell.

Scholastic shares plummeted 18.2%.

Chipotle Mexican Grill(:CMG) shares advanced 2.6% after announcing that it has added an additional $100 million to the existing $100 million repurchase plan previously announced on Oct. 18.

Cirrus Logic(:CRUS) shares bumped up 2.7% after the board of the high-precision analog and digital signal processing components supplier approved $200 million in share buybacks.

--Written by Andrea Tse and Joe Deaux in New York.

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Andrea Tse.

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