In this Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, photo, a trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
Updated: February 22, 2013 10:34AM
Strong earnings results from big U.S. companies offered investors a whiff of hope Friday. Stocks rose after a two-day slump, but remained on track for their worst week this year.
Hewlett-Packard drove the Dow Jones industrial average higher a day posting fiscal first-quarter earnings that beat the forecasts of analysts and the company itself. The results came as relief after months of bad news for the computer maker. Its stock rose $1.36, or 8 percent, to $18.46.
American International Group Inc. helped boost the Standard & Poor’s 500 index after saying its fourth-quarter operating results exceeded forecasts. The company’s net loss was $4 billion, mainly because of claims related to Superstorm Sandy, in the first full quarter after it finished repaying its $182 billion government bailout. Its stock rose $1.39, or 4 percent, to $38.67.
The Dow Jones industrial average was up 42 points at 13,922 in the first 45 minutes of trading. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose six to 1,508. The Nasdaq composite index rose 14 to 3,145.
All three indexes remain down for the week. The S&P 500 is on track for its first weekly loss of the year.
Stocks plunged Wednesday afternoon after minutes from the Federal Reserve’s latest policy meeting spooked investors. The minutes revealed disagreement at the Fed about how long to keep buying bonds in an effort to boost the economy. The slide continued Thursday.
Many analysts believe that the Fed’s bond-buying and resulting low interest rates have driven this year’s stock rally, which has lifted indexes to their highest levels since the 2008 financial crisis.
Among the other corporate news moving markets:
— Abercrombie & Fitch sank after a key sales metric declined in the all-important holiday quarter. Its stock fell $2.27, or 5 percent, to $46.78.
— WebMD Health Corp. soared after the health website operator reported better-than-expected revenue and an optimistic outlook for 2013. The stock rose $3.85, or 24 percent, to $20.15.