Stocks Inch Higher After Better Housing Data, HP Reports Earnings Early

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- U.S. markets closed higher Thursday as key discretionary retailers beat earnings expectations. Stocks earlier were buoyed after the release of better manufacturing data and a rise in existing home sales, which offset higher jobless claims.

  • The Dow Jones Industrial Average was 0.6% higher to 16,543.08, while the S&P 500 added 0.24% to 1,892.49. The Nasdaq climbed 0.55% to 4,154.34.
  • Initial jobless claims increased 28,000 to 326,000 in the week of May 17, coming in above the consensus economist estimate of 310,000. The Markit flash PMI Manufacturing Index for May hit a three-month high, rising to 56.2 up from 55.4 in April.
  • The National Association of Realtors said Thursday that existing home sales rose 1.3% to an annual rate of 4.65 million units -- the second increase in sales in nine months. The result was slightly below expectations for an annual rate of 4.68 million.
  • The HSBC Flash China Manufacturing PMI rebounded to 49.7 in May, up from 48.1 in April. The improvement was broad-based with both new orders and new export orders back in expansionary territory. But the report said downside risks to growth remain as the property market continues to cool. "We think more policy easing is needed to put a floor under growth in the coming months," Hongbin Qu, chief economist, China and co-head of Asian economic research at HSBC, said in the report.
  • The Hang Seng settled up 0.51%, the Nikkei 225 closed higher by 2.11%. The FTSE 100 was flat and the DAX was up 0.24%. The Markit Flash Eurozone Composite PMI and the first public release of the Markit/JMMA Flash Japan Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index both offered promising data.
  • Shares of Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) dropped 1.5% after releasing its fiscal year second-quarter earnings earlier than anticipated. Investors punished the stock after the company reported lower-than-anticipated sales, and announced it would be cutting 11,000 to 16,000 more jobs than initially forecast.
  • Dollar Tree (DLTR) settled higher by 6.5% after first-quarter profit rose 3.6% on higher sales.
  • Lowe's (LOW) rebounded 3.3% after missing earnings expectations on Wednesday.
  • Best Buy (BBY) was up 3.6% after reporting first-quarter revenue and same-store sales that missed expectations. Adjusted earnings per share of 33 cents beats analysts' expectations.
  • Sears (SHLD) surged more than 4%, despite posting a wider-than-expected quarterly loss of $2.24 a share. The consensus loss estimate was $1.87.
  • Hess (HES) was up 1.1% after announcing that it has agreed to sell its retail business to Marathon Petroleum (MRO) for a total cash consideration of $2.6 billion.
  • Williams-Sonoma (WSM) rose 8.2% after lifting its annual earnings forecast.

-- By Jane Searle, Andrea Tse and Joe Deaux in New York

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