Stocks Slightly Higher Amid Earnings Crush

Stocks retained a slight upward bias early Thursday as solid earnings from a trio of big technology outfits bolstered bulls on another day of congressional testimony by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.

Index futures recently showed both the S&P 500 and Nasdaq 100 trading about a point above fair value. The 10-year Treasury bond was down 4/32 in price to yield 5.07%, while the dollar fell against the yen and euro.

Stocks staged a powerful rally Wednesday as traders interpreted Bernanke's first-day comments as lowering the chances the Fed will raise interest rates when it next meets in August. Bernanke said "core inflation should decline" over the next few quarters as the economy enters a period of more sustainable growth.

The Fed chief will testify before the Senate Thursday and is expected to stick to the script he used on Wednesday. At 2 p.m. EDT, investors will also see minutes of the Fed's June policy meeting, at which it raised official interest rates for the 17th straight time to 5.25% and pledged a "data dependent" approach to the future.

Thursday is another huge day for corporate earnings, with Pfizer ( PFE) saying second-quarter earnings fell 30% from a year ago while Nokia ( NOK) reported an in-line quarter. Microsoft ( MSFT) and Google ( GOOG) report after the bell.

Oil was moderately higher Thursday after a three-day decline that has lopped 6% off the front-month contract. Concern that Israel's incursion into Lebanon will last weeks instead of days supported crude, which was recently up 18 cents to $72.84 a barrel in electronic Nymex trading.

Border skirmishes continued overnight inside Lebanon, where Israeli troops pressed a second day of ground offensives as jets bombed suspected Hezbollah sites for a ninth day. The Lebanese government says 300 people have been killed in the Israeli raids, which began after two Israeli soldiers were abducted on July 12.

To view Farnoosh Torabi's video take on today's market, click here

Overseas stocks were higher after Wednesday's 2% gain on the Dow. In Europe, London's FTSE 100 gained 0.4% to 5823 while Germany's Xetra DAX climbed 0.5% to 5568. In Asia, Japan's Nikkei surged 3.1% 5o 14,947 while Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 2% to 5987.

Apple ( AAPL) said third-quarter earnings rose 48% to $472 million, or 54 cents a share, beating estimates by a dime thanks to strong sales of higher-margin Mac computers. Revenue of $4.37 billion was slightly light.

Motorola's ( MOT) second quarter earnings rose 46% to $1.38 billion, or 55 cents a share, while sales rose 29% to $10.9 billion. Adjusted net of 33 cents a share beat by 3 cents and the company guided revenue sharply higher.

eBay ( EBAY) said quarterly earnings fell 14% to $250 million, or 17 cents a share, while sales jumped 30% to $1.41 billion. Adjusted for new accounting, eBay matched forecasts with a profit of 24 cents a share. It also announced a $2 billion share repurchase authorization.

Second-quarter profits fell 57% at Intel ( INTC) as the chipmaker coped with a price war. The company earned $886 million, or 15 cents a share, on sales of $8 billion and said third quarter sales should be $8.3 billion to $8.9 billion. Analysts were looking for $9.04 billion in the current period.

Qualcomm ( QCOM) posted a 15% rise in second-quarter earnings but saw its shares fall on a soggy outlook. The technology company put fourth quarter earnings at 39 cents to 41 cents a share on sales of $1.88 billion to $1.98 billion. Analysts wanted 42 cents a share on $1.99 billion.

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