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Wall Street gains as earnings flow in; Alcoa up

NEW YORK (AP) -- Stocks rose on Wall Street Wednesday after U.S. corporate earnings reports got off to a good start.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 57 points to 13,396 as of 2:12 p.m. EST. The Dow is coming off of two days of losses.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index gained four points to 1,461 and the Nasdaq composite rose 16 points to 3,108.

Having rallied after a last-minute resolution stopped the U.S. going from over the “fiscal cliff,” stocks are facing their first big challenge of the year as companies start to report earnings for the fourth quarter of 2012. Throughout last year, analysts cut their outlook for earnings growth in the period and now expect them to rise by 3.21 percent, according to data from S&P Capital IQ.

“Maybe earnings expectations were a little too low,” said Ryan Detrick, a strategist at Schaeffer's Investment Research. “You don't need to have great earnings, you just need to beat those expectations” for stocks to rally, Detrick said.

Alcoa predicted rising demand for aluminum this year as the aerospace industry gains strength. Late Tuesday the company reported fourth-quarter revenue that beat analysts' estimates. Investors pay close attention to Alcoa's results and forecasts because the aluminum it makes is used in so many industries including construction and manufacturing.

Boeing was the biggest gainer of the 30 stocks in the Dow, accounting for 17 points of the Dow's increase. Boeing jumped $2.34 to $76.47 following two days of sharp declines triggered by new problems for its 787 Dreamliner. Boeing said it has “extreme confidence” in the plane even as federal investigators try to determine the cause of a fire Monday aboard an empty Japan Airlines plane in Boston and a fuel leak at another JAL 787 on Tuesday.

Consumer products maker Helen of Troy, whose brands include Dr. Scholl's, Vicks and Fabreze, rose 89 cents to $34.42 after reporting a 15 percent increase in net income. Agricultural products giant Monsanto gained 84 cents to $99.34 after it said that its profit nearly tripled in the first fiscal quarter as sales of its biotech corn seeds expanded in Latin America.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note edged down to 1.86 percent from 1.87 percent.

Among other stocks making big moves:

_ Wireless network operator Clearwire jumped 22 cents to $3.14 after Dish network made an unsolicited offer to buy the company, which has already agreed to sell itself to Sprint. Dish rose $1.17 to $37.14 and Sprint fell 8 cents to $5.89.

_ Online education company Apollo Group plunged 6 percent after reporting a sharp decline in fall-term student sign-ups at the University of Phoenix. The stock fell $1.18 to $19.76.

_ Seagate Technology, a maker of hard-disk drives, jumped $1.72 to $33.12 after predicting revenue for its fiscal second quarter that topped Wall Street expectations late Tuesday.

_ Bank of America fell 47 cents to $11.51 after Credit Suisse analysts lowered their outlook on the lender to “neutral” for “outperform,” saying the current stock price overestimates the improvement in cost reduction that the bank can achieve this year.

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