Wall Street readies for third straight day of gains

Wall Street appears ready to claim a third straight day of gains as stocks continue a rally cheered by brighter economic news and expectations of higher corporate profits. All three major U.S. stock indexes gained at least a third of a percent, ahead of the start of third-quarter earnings reports that begin Wednesday, when aluminum-maker Alcoa (AA) will be the first of the Dow industrials to report earnings after markets close.

Shares of Alcoa were more than 2 percent higher in pre-market trading to $14.22. Analysts expect the company to lose 11 cents a share -- its fourth consecutive quarterly loss -- on estimated revenue of $4.55 billion.
On Tuesday after the U.S. markets closed, Yum Brands (YUM) announced higher-than-expected profit despite a 3 percent drop in world-wide sales. The fast-food chain company also raised its outlook on full-year earnings. Shares of Yum rose nearly 2 percent in after-hours trading.

Other stocks to watch Wednesday include Amazon.com (AMZN), which announced it's cutting the price of its Kindle electronic book reader to $259 -- a $40 drop. Shares of Apple Inc. (AAPL) were also higher ahead of the opening bell. Late yesterday, AT&T (T) suddenly reversed restrictions on voice-over-internet calls on Apple's popular iPhones, following a deal by Verizon (VZ) and Google (GOOG) that would allow such calls using Google Voice on two models using the search-engine company's Android operating system. Shares of Google were slightly lower ahead of market open.

Overseas, Asian and European markets were higher. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong gained 2 percent, while Japan's Nikkei gained 1.1 percent. Gold prices continued to march hitting a new record near $1,050 an ounce and oil prices were also higher.

On the economic calendar, reports on U.S. crude-oil inventories are expected at 10:30 ET, followed by minor reports on consumer indebtedness and the monthly Treasury Department budget.
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