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NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stocks are drifting in Thursday morning trading as a parade of big companies turn in quarterly results. The Dow Jones industrial average climbed more than 100 points, almost entirely thanks to a strong gain for Visa, the Dow's highest-priced stock.

KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor's 500 index picked up one point to 1,983 as of 11:21 a.m. Eastern time. The Nasdaq composite fell 13 points, or 0.3 percent, to 4,536. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 125 points, or 0.7 percent, at 17,099. The Dow's 30 large corporations are weighted by their prices. That means Visa and other companies with more expensive stocks have more power to drive the average up or down.

VISA: After the market closed Wednesday, the world's largest payment-processing company reported quarterly earnings that were higher than analysts' forecasts, thanks to the company handling more transactions. The company also announced a plan to spend as much as $5 billion on buying its own shares. Visa surged $19.73, or 9 percent, $234.50. Without the gain in Visa, the Dow would be down two points.

THE ARCHRIVAL: The world's second-largest card-payment company, MasterCard, said its third-quarter profit surged as Americans appeared less hesitant to use their debit and credit cards. The results beat Wall Street's expectations, propelling MasterCard's stock up $5.38, or 7 percent, to $81.33.

SCORECARD: Stronger corporate earnings have helped turn the market higher in recent weeks. Roughly half of the S&P 500's members have released their third-quarter results, and more than seven out of 10 have beaten Wall Street's targets, according to S&P Capital IQ. Third-quarter earnings are now on track to increase nearly 7 percent, led by material producers and health-care companies.

MORE GROWTH: The U.S. economy grew at an annual rate of 3.5 percent in the three months ending in September, powered by more business investment, sales abroad and the biggest jump in military spending in five years. The Commerce Department's estimate for third-quarter growth came in slightly better than economists expected. In a separate report, the Labor Department counted more people applying for unemployment benefits last week, but the number remained below 300,000 for the seventh straight week. The less-volatile four-week average declined to 281,000, the lowest level since May 2000.

EUROPE: France's CAC 40 edged up 0.1 percent and Germany's DAX slipped 0.4 percent. Britain's FTSE 100 lost 0.1 percent.

ASIA'S DAY: Japan's benchmark, the Nikkei 225, closed with a gain of 0.7 percent. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng fell 0.5 percent, while on mainland China, the Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.8 percent.

PARTY OVER: On Wednesday, the Fed declared that it had wrapped up its $4 trillion bond-buying program, noting that the U.S. economy no longer needs as much assistance. Markets have been through several episodes of jitters about the program's shutdown, because it provided significant support to financial markets even as experts debated its effects on the U.S. economy. The focus now is on when the Fed will raise its short-term interest rate from a record low.

BONDS AND DOLLAR: The price of the 10-year Treasury note edged up, and the yield, which moves in the opposite direction, slipped to 2.29 percent from 2.32 percent late Wednesday. The dollar rose to 109.01 yen. The euro slipped to $1.261.

COMMODITIES: Benchmark crude oil dropped 90 cents to $81.30 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Gold sank $28.10 to $1,197 an ounce.


Kelvin Chan reported from Hong Kong



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