FedEx earns, drop in claims push stocks higher

December 15, 2011 - 10:30 AM
Wall Street

FILE - In this Dec. 12, 2011 file photo, specialist John O'Hara, right, works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Signs of a global economic slowdown and stresses in Europe's financial system kept investors cautious on Thursday, Dec. 15, 2011, causing losses in Asian markets, limiting gains in Europe and keeping the euro near 11-month lows.(AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — Strong earnings from FedEx and a sharp drop in claims for unemployment benefits sent stocks higher in early trading Thursday.

The Dow Jones industrial average jumped 88 points, or 0.7 percent, to 11,911 in the first half hour of trading. The Dow lost 360 points over the past three days as on worries that Europe's latest plan to keep its currency union intact would fail.

FedEx reported that its quarterly income nearly doubled on strong growth in online shopping during the holiday season. FedEx is seen as a bellwether for the economy. Its stock jumped 4.9 percent.

The number of people applying for unemployment benefits dropped last week to 366,000, the lowest level since May 2008. That's a sign that layoffs are easing, a first step toward bringing down the unemployment rate, which currently stands at 8.6 percent.

The gains were broad. All 10 industry groups in the S&P rose, led by health care and banks. Every stock in the Dow Jones industrial average rose except for AT&T Inc., which slipped 0.3 percent. Pfizer Inc. rose the most, 1.7 percent.

The Standard & Poor's 500 rose 8 points, or 0.7 percent, to 1,220. The Nasdaq rose 10, or 0.4 percent, 2,549.

In corporate news, Michael Kors Holdings Ltd. jumped 23 percent to $24.84 on its first day of trading. The initial public offering valued the fashion design company at $3.8 billion.

Novellus Systems Inc. jumped 21 percent. The semiconductor equipment maker said late Wednesday that it was being acquired by rival Lam Research Corp.

Rite Aid Corp. rose 7 percent. The drugstore chain announced that losses had narrowed in its third quarter.

European markets rose, a day after big declines, as an auction of Spanish government bonds drew strong demand from investors. Germany's DAX rose 1.7 percent; France's main stock index rose 1.2 percent.

The euro rose against the dollar, moving back above $1.30, a day after hitting an 11-month low. The yields on Spanish and Italian government fell, a sign that investors were less worried about the ability of those countries to pay back their debts.