With earnings season ready to go full tilt next week, stocks finished modestly higher today as fears of a banking collapse in Portugal faded. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) finished up 29 points, or 0.2%, while the S&P 500 gained by the same percentage, and the Nasdaq added on 0.4%, as some Internet stocks made strong gains.
Wells Fargo was the first of the banking giants to report earnings today, falling 0.6% as profits improved 4%, to $1.01 a share, and revenue fell 1.5%, to $21.1 billion. Those results were essentially in line with estimates. Loans and deposits grew briskly for the country's No. 1 mortgage lender, a positive sign for the overall economy, as CEO John Stumpf said credit quality had improved alongside the economy and the housing market. In the energy sector, crude oil fell 2.4% to just more than $100 a barrel, making Chevron and Exxon the worst performers on the Dow, falling 1.4% and 0.8%, respectively. There were no major economic reports released today.
Other big movers today included Amazon.com (NASDAQ: AMZN ) , which finished up 5.6% as it asked the FAA for permission to test-fly drones, which it plans to ultimately use for package delivery. The online behemoth has called the service Amazon Prime Air, and believes drones could one day deliver small packages to customers in less than 30 minutes. The drone-delivery idea, which first emerged last December, is just the latest example of the company's ability to push the limits of online retail, and of its constant mission to invent and focus on the customer. Only two commercial drones have been approved thus far by the FAA, and the approval process is a lengthy and complex one; but Amazon management believes strongly in the project, implying it's willing to bring the project to other countries if the FAA does not approve it.
Finally, Lorillard (NYSE: LO.DL ) finished up 4.6% after it confirmed merger talks with Reynolds American. The parent of cigarette brands including Newport and the leading eCigarette, Blu, said it was nearing an agreement to be acquired by Reynolds American, the parent of brands such as Camel and Pall Mall. Lorillard is particularly appealing to the Camel parent because of its Blu e-cig brand, which has 40% share in the fast-growing category. In Newport, Lorillard also has the leading brand of menthol category, another of the rare growing segments in tobacco. A combination of the country's No. 2 and No. 3 tobacco companies would present a powerful rival to Altria, but would also require antitrust approval from the Justice Department, as a deal would mean that 90% of cigarette sales are controlled by just two companies. Sources said a merger announcement could come as soon as Monday. No price tag has been tied to the offer, but Lorillard shares have gained nearly 20% since word of deal first came out in May.
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