Stocks posted solid gains for a third straight day on Wednesday, helped by some decent economic numbers. The Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) gained 162 points, the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GPSC) rose 19, and the Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) added 52 points.
The Dow was led by its old-line companies after the Fed reported a stronger-than-expected increase in industrial production in March, and Fed Chief Janet Yellen made dovish comments during a speech in New York.
Boeing (BA), Exxon (XOM), Chevron (CVX), United Technologies (UTX) and 3M (MMM) all gained more than 1 percent. Financial stocks were also strong performers. Visa (V) gained 2 percent; Goldman Sachs (GS) and American Express (AXP) rose more than 1 percent.
But the blue chip loser of the day award goes to United Healthcare (UNH). It fell 1.5 percent after Citigroup cut its rating on the stock to "neutral" from "buy."
Airlines found some clear skies after a bumpy ride over the past month. American (AAL), United (UAL) and Delta (DAL) all gained about 5 percent.
The other big story was earnings.
Yahoo (YHOO) jumped 6 percent. Its results were okay, but the focus was on soaring sales and profit at the Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba. Yahoo owns a 24 percent stake in it, and stands to make a big profit when Alibaba goes public later this year.
PNC (PNC), a major regional bank, gained nearly 3 percent after topping expectations.
But industry giant Bank of America (BAC), which sponsors this report, fell 1.5 percent. It posted a loss due to huge charge related to legal settlements.
Also, CSX (CSX) fell nearly 2 percent. Its net fell, hurt by weather-related disruptions to its rail operations.
Among the major Internet stocks, Google (GOOG) rose 4 percent and Amazon (AMZN) added 2.5, but Twitter (TWTR) fell 2.5 percent.
And biotechs were generally higher. Regeneron (RGEN) gained 4 percent on some positive brokerage comments about its cholesterol-fighting drug that's expected to hit the market later this year.
But Intercept Pharmaceuticals (ICPT) lost another 4.5 percent Wednesday. This week alone, it's down 21 percent.
Finally, Sodastream (SODA) jumped 8 percent on reports that it's in talks to sell a big stake to an unidentified strategic partner, possible PepsiCo (PEP). Earlier this year, rival Keurig Green Mountain (GMCR) linked up with Coca-Cola (KO).
What to Watch Thursday:
The Labor Department releases weekly jobless claims at 8:30 a.m. Eastern time.
At 10 a.m., the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia releases its monthly survey of regional manufacturing conditions, and Freddie Mac reports weekly mortgage rates.
These major companies are scheduled to release quarterly financial results:
After Market: Yellen Speech, Industrial Production Spur Buying
"Your daily habits and routines are the reason you got into this mess," writes Trent Hamm, founder of TheSimpleDollar.com. "Spend some time thinking about how you spend money each day, each week and each month." Do you really need your daily latte? Can you bring your lunch to work instead of buying it four times a week? Ask yourself: What can I change without sacrificing my lifestyle too much?
Remove all credit cards from your wallet and leave them at home when you go shopping, advises WiseBread contributor Sabah Karimi. “Even if you earn cash back or other rewards with credit card purchases, stop spending with your credit cards until you have your finances under control,” she writes.
If you do a lot of online shopping at one retailer, you may have stored your credit card information on the site to make the checkout process easier. But that also makes it easier to charge items you don't need. So clear that information. "If you’re paying for a recurring service, use a debit card issued from a major credit card service linked to your checking account," Hamm writes.
Reward yourself when you reach debt payoff goals. "The only way to completely pay off your credit card debt is to keep at it, and to do that, you must keep yourself motivated," Bakke writes. Just make sure to reward yourself within reason. For example, instead of a weeklong vacation, plan a weekend camping trip. "If you aim to reduce your credit card debt from $10,000 to $5,000 in two months," Bakke writes, "give yourself more than a pat on the back."
“Establish a budget,” writes Money Crashers contributor David Bakke. “If you don't scale back your spending, you'll dig yourself into a deeper hole." You can use personal finance tools like Mint.com, or make your own Excel spreadsheet that includes your monthly income and expenses. Then scrutinize those budget categories to see where you can cut costs.
Sort your credit card interest rates from highest to lowest, then tackle the card with the highest rate first. "By paying off the balance with the highest interest first, you increase your payment on the credit card with the highest annual percentage rate while continuing to make the minimum payment on the rest of your credit cards," writes Mint.com spokeswoman Hitha Prabhakar.
To make a dent in your debt, you need to pay more than the minimum balance on your credit card statements each month. "Paying the minimum -– usually 2 to 3 percent of the outstanding balance -– only prolongs a debt payoff strategy," Prabhakar writes. "Strengthen your commitment to pay everything off by making weekly, instead of monthly, payments." Or if your minimum payment is $100, try doubling it and paying off $200 or more.
If you have a high-interest card with a balance that you’re confident you can pay off in a few months, Hamm recommends moving the debt to a card that offers a zero-interest balance transfer. "You’ll need to pay off the debt before the balance transfer expires, or else you’re often hit with a much higher interest rate," he warns. "If you do it carefully, you can save hundreds on interest this way."
Have any birthday gifts or old wedding presents collecting dust in your closet? Look for items you can sell on eBay or Craigslist. "Do some research to make sure you list these items at a fair and reasonable price," Karimi writes. “Take quality photos, and write an attention-grabbing headline and description to sell the item as quickly as possible." Any profits from sales should go toward your debt.
If you receive a job bonus around the holidays or during the year, allocate that money toward your debt payoff plan. "Avoid the temptation to spend that bonus on a vacation or other luxury purchase," Karimi writes. It’s more important to fix your financial situation than own the latest designer bag.