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Stocks Climb on Robust Earnings; Ford, 3M, Generac, Pulte among Winners

Hot Stock Minute

Stocks climbed today with the S&P moving back above the 1,750 threshold. Share prices were driven higher by a number of encouraging quarterly earnings reports. Weekly jobless claims fell 12,000 to 350,000. However they were still higher than estimates which were for 335,000 claims. Ongoing problems with California's reporting are said to be distorting the reports. The trouble began last month with the installation of a new computer system.

POLL: Who's to blame for glitches with healthcare.gov?

Ford (F) has gotten things in gear. Shares rose over 1% after the automaker cruised past earnings estimates with its quarterly results. The automaker made 45-cents a share when expectations were for 38-cents. Revenues were slightly below the consensus at $33.9-billion versus $33.982-billion. However, the company is raising its full-year forecast for profits and operating margins. It cited Europe, South America and China as regions of particular strength.

Dow component 3M (MMM) was flat for the day after beating on both the top and bottom lines for the quarter. The manufacturer made $1.78 a share on $7.92-billion in sales when estimates were for $1.75 on $7.855-billion in sales. Operating income rose more than 3% in the electronics and energy unit, reversing declines from the prior quarter. The safety and graphics unit was a standout with more than a 7% rise in income.

Generac Holdings (GNRC) was one of the biggest gainers in today's parade of earnings reports. The maker of home generators climbed more than 13% after reporting third quarter adjusted profits of $1.06 per share. That was 23-cents above estimates. Revenues rose more than 20% to $363.3-million versus expectations of the $342.31-million. The company also raised its sales forecast for the full year.

Homebuilder PulteGroup (PHM) was another big gainer on its earnings. The stock climbed 7% after reporting adjusted earnings of 45-cents a share, 9-cents above estimates. Revenue also exceeded forecasts coming in at $1.49-billion versus $1.46-billion. The company also said it views any weaknesses in the market as short-lived.

Apple (AAPL) rose over 1% on news that investor Carl Icahn is pushing the company for a $150-million stock buyback. Icahn currently owns about 0.5% of Apple, which comes to roughly $2.5-billion. He's pledging not to sell his shares and take the profits if Apple follow his plan. Icahn began his offensive yesterday with a tweet: "Just sent a letter to Tim Cook. Full letter will be disclosed on my website, the Shareholders’ Square Table, which will be launched tomorrow."

Meanwhile JPMorgan (JPM) moved 0.5% lower on news of another impending legal battle. This time the bank could pay for its ties to Bernie Madoff. The New York Times says the Feds suspect JPM of turning a blind eye to Madoff's Ponzi scheme. Prosecutors are said to be mounting a criminal investigation. But the paper says the bank has been in talks to pay a fine before charges are filed. This case would be entirely independent from the massive $13-billion dollar settlement the bank is said to be nearing with the Justice Department over a number of cases.

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