Stocks rose early Thursday as strong earnings from Shell ( RDS-A), Aetna ( AET) and Sony ( SNE) suggested the profit picture remains bright. Index futures recently showed the S&P 500 trading 3 points above fair value, while the Nasdaq 100 was set for a 5-point rise. The 10-year Treasury bond fell 1/32 in price to yield 5.03%, while the dollar was lowerl against the yen and euro. The dollar was pressured by the fallout from Wednesday's beige book, the Federal Reserve economic report, which found "evidence that the pace of growth has slowed" from June to mid-July. Later Thursday, the Commerce Department is expected to say durable-goods orders rose 2% in June after falling 0.2% in May. Overseas markets were having strong sessions, with London's FTSE 100 recently up 5909 and Germany's Xetra DAX rising 1% to 5636. In Asia, Japan's Nikkei rose 2% overnight to 15,180, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 1.8% to 16,917. Crude rose as Israel reportedly dug in for an extended assault on Hezbollah positions in southern Lebanon after eight of its soldiers died in an ambush on Wednesday. September crude gained 29 cents to $74.23 a barrel early Thursday after rising 19 cents in the previous session on an unexpectedly sharp decline in U.S. gasoline inventories. Stocks swung in a 100-plus-point range Thursday before settling little changed in New York, as a cross-current of mixed earnings and economic news left traders groping for direction. On the session, the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 1.2 points to 11,102, while the Nasdaq Composite lost 3 points to 2070. In earnings, Shell said second-quarter net income rose 40% from a year ago, bolstered by strong production and the ever-appreciating price of crude oil. Shell earned $7.32 billion in the latest quarter, up from $5.24 billion a year ago. Shell's exploration and production segment saw profits rise to $4 billion from $2.75 billion a year ago. To view Farnoosh Torabi's video take on today's market,
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Sony swung to a first-quarter profit of $276 million, helped by a rebound in its electronics division, which benefited from sales of flat-panel televisions. Sales were $14.9 billion, up 11% from last year, as the company also saw a big revenue contribution from its movie studio. Aetna saw second-quarter earnings fall 1% from last year to $389.5 million, or 67 cents a share, on a 14% rise in revenue to $6.25 billion. Adjusted earnings of 64 cents a share matched estimates, while the revenue figure was about $30 million ahead of Wall Street forecasts.