Personal Finance

Higher profits from Ford, Southwest drive stocks up

Another dose of strong corporate earnings, this time from Ford, Southwest Airlines and others, helped push the stock market higher Thursday.

It’s one of the busiest weeks on Wall Street for corporate earnings. Roughly a third of the S&P 500 will report results, including some of the world’s best-known companies.

For investors, this week has also been a welcome return to business as usual. Wall Street has been focused for weeks on what’s going on in Washington, with the government shutdown, the near-breach of the nation’s borrowing limit and questions about what’s next for the Federal Reserve’s massive bond-buying program.

So far, corporate earnings have come in pretty much as most money managers expected. Companies are reporting bigger profits, but most of the growth has come from cost-cutting, a trend that hasn’t changed much as middle-class incomes stagnate and income gains go mainly to the wealthy.

“We’re in a slow-growth economy, and companies need to do everything to boost earnings,” said Brian Reynolds, chief market strategist at Rosenblatt Securities.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 95.88 points, or 0.6 percent, to 15,509.21. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index added 5.69 points, or 0.3 percent, to 1,752.07, about two points below the record high of 1,754.67 it reached on Tuesday.

The Nasdaq composite was up 21.89 points, or 0.6 percent, to 3,928.96.

Among companies reporting earnings, Ford earned an adjusted profit of 45 cents per share – a record for the third quarter – as sales rose 12 percent to $36 billion. And Southwest Airlines, the nation’s largest domestic air carrier, reported sharply higher earnings as fuel costs dipped.

AT&T fell 65 cents, or 1.8 percent, to $34.63. The telecommunications company said late Wednesday it had an adjusted profit of 66 cents in the third quarter, a penny above analysts’ forecasts, however revenue fell slightly short of what analysts expected.

Two technology giants, Microsoft and Amazon, reported results after the stock market closed Thursday. Both beat analysts’ expectations. Amazon rose 5 percent and Microsoft jumped 6.5 percent in after-market trading.

Wall Street also had some positive news out of China. A Chinese manufacturing index rose to a seven-month high in October, suggesting continued momentum for the rebound in the world’s second-biggest economy.

In stocks of regional interest:

Capitol Federal Financial rose 4 cents, or 0.31%, to close at $13.10.

Cerner Corp. fell 24 cents, or 0.41%, to close at $57.76.

Commerce Bancshares Inc. fell 6 cents, or 0.13%, to close at $46.55.

Compass Minerals rose 46 cents, or 0.61%, to close at $75.88.

DST Systems Inc. rose $1.50, or 1.88%, to close at $81.31.

Ferrellgas Partners LP fell 9 cents, or 0.40%, to close at $22.60.

Garmin Ltd. rose 6 cents, or 0.12%, to close at $48.83.

Great Plains Energy rose 5 cents, or 0.21%, to close at $23.41.

H&R Block Inc. fell 17 cents, or 0.59%, to close at $28.70.

Kansas City Life Insurance Co. rose 84 cents, or 1.83%, to close at $46.82.

Kansas City Southern rose 80 cents, or 0.65%, to close at $124.46.

O’Reilly Automotive Inc. fell $9.23, or 6.87%, to close at $125.08.

Sprint Corp. rose 9 cents, or 1.40%, to close at $6.52.

UMB Financial Corp. fell 7 cents, or 0.12%, to close at $60.06.

Waddell & Reed Financial Corp. rose 83 cents, or 1.42%, to close at $59.39.

YRC Worldwide Inc. fell 24 cents, or 2.04%, to close at $11.50.