Trader William Sachs, right, check prices as he works on...

Trader William Sachs, right, check prices as he works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday. A new sign of recovery in the housing market and strong corporate earnings sent stocks higher on Wednesday. (July 18, 2012) Credit: AP

Strong earnings from IBM and other technology companies nudged the stock market higher Thursday, but a trio of weak economic reports kept the gains in check.

IBM surged 3.77 percent after it posted a jump in profits late Wednesday even as revenue fell. It marked the 38th consecutive quarter that IBM's net income rose over the previous year. IBM leaped $7.09 to $195.34.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 34.66 points to close at 12,943.36, the third straight day of gains.

"One thing is dominating today and it's tech earnings," said Lawrence Creatura, portfolio manager at the mutual fund manager Federated Investors. "Earnings have been better than a lot of people expected. That could still change, but so far, so good."

Analysts forecast that earnings at S&P 500 companies shrank 1.5 percent in the April-through-June period versus a year ago, according to researchers at S&P Capital IQ. If that turns out to be true, it will be the worst earnings season since the summer quarter of 2009.

In other trading, the Standard & Poor's 500 index gained 0.27 percent to 1,376.51. The Nasdaq composite index rose 0.79 percent to 2,965.90.

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