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Stock rise as Dow hits new high for year

Strong earnings reports from big companies including Apple Inc. and UnitedHealth Group Inc. lifted stocks across the market Thursday.

The Dow Jones industrial average closed at another high for this year. The 30-company index rose 52.45 points, or 0.4 percent, to 12,505.99.

"There are a lot of concerns out there, but investors are looking at the bottom line right now, and that's earnings," said Yu-Dee Chang, chief trader at ACE Investment Strategists, a Virginia-based money management firm.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index gained 7.02, or 0.5 percent, to 1,337.38. The S&P 500, a benchmark for most mutual funds, is now less than 6 points away from its highest close of the year.

The gains were broad. All 10 company groups that make up the S&P index rose, led by a nearly 1 percent gain in technology companies.

The Nasdaq composite index rose 17.65 points, or 0.6 percent, to 2,820.16.

Apple Inc. rose nearly 3 percent after reporting sales and income late Wednesday that came in way ahead of analysts' estimates. The company sold 18.7 million iPhones in the latest quarter, millions more than expected. Verizon Wireless started selling the phones in February, ending 3 1/2 years of exclusivity for AT&T Inc.

The Travelers Companies Inc. rose nearly 4 percent, leading the 30 companies in the Dow average, after reporting stronger earnings and a14 percent dividend increase. The commercial insurer benefited from a drop in losses from catastrophe claims and more companies buying insurance.

UnitedHealth jumped 8 percent after the health insurer said profits rose 13 percent as more employees signed up for coverage.

The stronger earnings results were tempered by weaker-than-expected economic reports. The Labor Department said Thursday that the number of people who applied for unemployment benefits fell last week to 403,000. Economists had expected a larger drop. A separate report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia found that manufacturing activity in the Philadelphia area fell in April.

Other companies in the Dow fell after investors found worrying signs in their earnings reports.

McDonald's Corp. dropped nearly 2 percent, despite beating analyst's earnings estimates.

General Electric Co. dropped 2 percent, also despite beating estimates.

Two stocks rose for every one that fell on the New York Stock Exchange. Consolidated volume came to 3.7 billion shares. Markets will be closed today for the Good Friday holiday.

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