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U.S. stocks on track for third day of gains as oil rises

Traders Greg Mulligan, left, John Doherty work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange Wednesday
Traders Greg Mulligan, left, John Doherty work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange Wednesday AP

NEW YORK – U.S. stocks rose broadly in noon trading Wednesday as investors weighed higher oil prices, an expected new stimulus from Europe’s central bank, a rebound in home construction, and a mix of corporate earnings reports.

European stocks rose before a decision Thursday by the European Central Bank on new measures to jolt the region’s economy to faster growth. Asian markets closed mostly higher.

KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 13 points, or 0.7 percent, to 2,036 as of 12:16 a.m. Eastern time Wednesday. The Dow Jones industrial average climbed 50 points, or 0.3 percent, to 17,565. The Nasdaq gained 29 points, or 0.6 percent, to 4,684.

BUILDING BOUNCE: Construction of new homes rebounded in December, helping to push activity for the entire year to the highest level since the peak of the housing boom nine years ago. Homebuilders Hovnanian Enterprises and D.R. Horton rose 1 percent each.

The Commerce Department report showed that builders started construction at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.09 million in December, an increase of 4.4 percent from November.

NETFLIX NATION: Netflix leapt 17 percent, the biggest gain in the S&P 500, after reporting a record gains in subscribers and profits last quarter. In a report late Tuesday, the company said it added 4.3 million subscribers in the final three months last year and that per-share earnings rose 72 percent from the same time last year. The stock jumped $57.94 to $406.45.

ENERGY SURGE: Higher oil prices are boosting stocks in oil drillers and servicers. The energy sector rose 1.6 percent, the most of the 10 sectors of the S&P 500.

BLUES AT BIG BLUE: IBM fell $4.48, or nearly 3 percent, to $152.44 after the technology and consulting company reported an 11 percent drop in fourth-quarter profit. Its outlook for the coming year also disappointed investors as business customers continue to move away from buying big mainframe computers and traditional software installed on their own systems.

HEALTH BOOST: UnitedHealth rose $2.56, or 2.4 percent, to $108.18 after its quarterly earnings topped Wall Street expectations. The nation’s largest health insurer had said last month that it expected double-digit earnings growth in 2015.

THE QUOTE: “This earnings season is not as much of a slam dunk as in the past,” said Anastasia Amoroso, global market strategist at J.P. Morgan Asset Management. “In prior seasons we had all sectors contributing (to gains), but energy and some industrial companies aren’t now. There’s a lot of uncertainty.”

EUROPEAN STOCKS: Britain’s FTSE 100 added 1.6 percent, France’s CAC 40 gained 0.9 percent and Germany’s DAX rose 0.4 percent.

MORE STIMULUS: Many investors are betting that the European Central Bank will throw the continent’s stricken economy another lifeline on Thursday. It’s widely expected that the ECB will announce a massive round of government bond buying, a stimulus program known as quantitative easing.

CHINA BOUNCE: The Shanghai index rose 4.7 percent higher, its second gain in a row. It has now clawed back most of its losses from a nearly 8 percent fall on Monday. In a written commentary, Ric Spooner, chief analyst at CMC Markets in Sydney, said data on Chinese economic growth released Tuesday painted a picture of “slightly moderating overall growth,” which relieved investors.

ASIA'S DAY: Asian markets closed mostly highly. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng rose 1.7 percent higher, Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 zoomed 1.6 percent and South Korea’s Kospi edged up 0.2 percent.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 index slipped 0.5 percent after the Bank of Japan concluded a meeting without any changes to its ultra-loose monetary policy.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude rose $1.27 a barrel, or 2.7 percent, $47.76 on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, the international benchmark, rose $1.07 to $49.06 in London.

CURRENCIES: The dollar weakened to 118.08 yen from 118.64 yen the previous day. The euro edged up to $1.1568 from $1.1548.

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