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Banks lead U.S. stocks mostly higher in Thursday trading

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NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stocks are edging higher Thursday afternoon. Banks are rising as they continue to report their first-quarter results, and airlines are rising after Delta said low fuel costs boosted its results. Tech stocks are falling after dour projections from Seagate Technology.

KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average added 32 points, or 0.2 percent, to 17,940 as of 1:44 p.m. Eastern time. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 2 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,084. The Nasdaq composite gained 4 points, or 0.1 percent, to 4,951.

After making big jumps the last two days, stocks are little changed.

BANKS: Banks reported mixed results, but since Wall Street was braced for even worse news, those stocks made some of the biggest gains on the market.

Bank of America’s profit fell on weak results from trading, but the outcome wasn’t any worse than investors expected. The stock picked up 34 cents, or 2.4 percent, to $14.13.

Wells Fargo’s profit fell as it set aside more money to cover its struggling portfolio of oil and gas loans. The stock fell 25 cents to $48.79. First Republic Bank jumped $3.31, or 4.9 percent, to $70.81 after the San Francisco bank reported a bigger-than-expected profit. Fifth Third Bank, another regional bank, gained 29 cents, or 1.7 percent, to $17.70.

Bank stocks jumped Wednesday after JPMorgan Chase, the largest U.S. bank, reported results that beat expectations. They are still the worst-performing stocks on the S&P 500 this year.

THE QUOTE: JJ Kinahan, chief strategist for TD Ameritrade, said banks benefited as more people bought homes and consumers and businesses took out more loans.

“If businesses are starting to expand a little bit, if the consumer is out there trying to buy housing, (lending) is a steady source of income for these institutions,” he said. Investors feared “this was going to be an absolutely disastrous earnings season,” he said.

FLYING HIGH: Delta Air Lines’ first-quarter profit jumped 27 percent, helped by low fuel costs. Delta’s stock gained 67 cents, or 1.4 percent, to $48.71. American Airlines rose $1.32, or 3.3 percent, to $41.26 and United added $1.42, or 2.6 percent, to $57. JetBlue and Southwest also climbed.

TECH TROUBLES: Data storage company Seagate Technology said its third-quarter profit margins and revenue will be lower than expected. The company said it’s seeing lower demand for some kinds of hard disk drives. Its stock slumped $6.50, or 19.2 percent, to $27.43. Competitor Western Digital fell $3.28, or 7.2 percent, to $41.51 and NetApp lost $1.06, or 4 percent, to $25.64.

PIER PRESSURE: Pier 1 Imports is falling after the home decor company gave a shaky outlook for the first half of its fiscal year. Pier 1 said it expects “pressure” on its profit and sales because of marketing expenses, including a return to TV advertising, as well as price markdowns. The stock gave up 35 cents, or 4.8 percent, to $6.99.

UNEMPLOYMENT FALLS: Claims for unemployment benefits dropped sharply last week and reached their lowest level since 1973. They’ve been at low levels for a year, which indicates the job market is healthy and employers aren’t letting go of workers. That suggests many companies see the recent slowdown as temporary.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude oil rose 4 cents to $41.80 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, the international standard, rose 5 cents to $44.23 a barrel in London.

METALS: Gold declined $21.80, or 1.7 percent, to $1,226.50 an ounce. Silver lost 15 cents to $16.17 an ounce. Copper was unchanged at $2.17 a pound.

OVERSEAS: In Europe, Germany’s DAX was up 0.7 percent while the CAC-40 in France rose 0.5 percent. The FTSE 100 index in Britain held steady. Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 closed 3.2 percent higher as the yen weakened slightly against the dollar. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng gained 0.8 percent and South Korea’s KOSPI climbed 1.7 percent.

BONDS, CURRENCIES: Bond prices slipped. The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note rose to 1.78 percent from 1.77 percent. The euro fell to $1.1268 from $1.1283 and the dollar dipped to 109.21 yen from 109.24 yen.

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