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U.S. stocks rise as earnings roll in, oil prices climb

Trader Leon Montana works on the floor of

Trader Leon Montana works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange Tuesday, April 14, 2015. Credit: AP / Richard Drew

Better earnings and rising oil prices pushed U.S. stocks to solid gains Wednesday. Intel led the Dow Jones industrial average up after the maker of computer chips turned in better results than Wall Street expected.

KEEPING SCORE: The Dow rose 117 points, or 0.6 percent, to 18,153 as of 2:25 p.m. on Wall Street. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 16 points, or 0.7 percent, to 2,111, while the Nasdaq composite added 43 points, or 0.9 percent, to 5,020.

SHRINKING: Expectations for overall first-quarter earnings are low. Analysts forecast that companies in the S&P 500 will report a 3 percent drop in profits. It that comes true, it would be the first time quarterly earnings shrank since 2009, when the U.S. was still climbing out of a recession. Most of the blame lies with the slump in oil prices over the past year, which has pinched oil and gas companies' profits, and the stronger dollar.

FLYING: Delta Air Lines said its quarterly profit more than tripled as passengers flew more and fuel prices plunged from a year ago. The results came in better than analysts expected, sending Delta's stock up 86 cents, or 2 percent, to $43.95, putting it among the top gainers in the S&P 500.

CHIPPER: The world's largest maker of computer chips, Intel, reported quarterly profits late Tuesday that beat analysts' targets. Revenue was flat, partially a result of weak demand for new personal computers. Intel's stock surged $1.42, or 5 percent, to $32.91.

WALL STREET'S VIEW: "There were concerns that the weak economic data we've seen would lead to weak profits," said Jeremy Zirin, head of investment strategy at UBS Wealth Management. "So far, there's no signal that this quarter is really a harbinger of a profit recession. I think that's why the market is reacting positively today."

BANK BEHEMOTH: Bank of America returned to a profit in the first quarter as it put some of its legal troubles behind it. But revenue remained flat for main businesses. The bank's stock dropped 12 cents, or 1 percent, to $15.71.

CRUDE: Benchmark U.S. crude oil surged $2.99 to $56.28 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, rose $3.41 to $63.22 a barrel in London.

TRUST BUSTERS: The European Union's antitrust arm accused Google on Wednesday of abusing its dominance in Internet searches and opened an investigation into its Android operating system for mobile devices, raising the stakes in a five-year antitrust battle. Google's stock fell 39 cents, or 0.1 percent, to $539.39.

EUROPE: Major markets in Europe ended the day mixed. Germany's DAX finished flat while France's CAC-40 gained 0.7 percent. Britain's FTSE 100 index of leading shares added 0.3 percent.

DRAGHI: Minutes after being forced from the stage by a protester, Mario Draghi, the president of the European Central Bank, indicated that the bank will stick with its monthly purchases of bonds. Recent solid economic data fueled speculation that the ECB will ease the pace of its bond-buying, aimed at spurring economic growth. His briefing came after the bank kept its main interest rate unchanged at a record low of 0.05 percent.

CHINA DATA: China was also in focus Wednesday after figures showed the world's second-largest economy continued to cool. The latest signs were that manufacturing and retail sales slowed in the first three months of the year. The country's slower growth has raised expectations that Beijing will roll out more support for the economy.

ASIA'S DAY: Japan's Nikkei 225 stock index fell 0.2 percent. Hong Kong's Hang Seng recovered from early losses, gaining 0.2 percent, while the Shanghai composite index ended the day with a 1.2 percent loss.

METALS: Precious and industrial metals traded higher. Gold rose $8.70 to settle at $1,201.30 an ounce, while silver rose 12 cents to $16.28 an ounce. Copper picked up a penny to $2.71 a pound.

BONDS: In the market for U.S. government bonds, the yield on the 10-year Treasury note was unchanged at 1.90 percent.

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