Stock Market Today Rallies on this Encouraging News

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The stock market today (Wednesday) opened higher for the first time in three days, on the heels of better-than-expected numbers from the Alcoa Inc. (NYSE: AA) earnings report.  

Shortly before noon, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 77 points, the Standard & Poor's 500 Index rose 6 and the Nasdaq was better by 17.

Aluminum producer Alcoa posted Q4 earnings after the close Tuesday of six cents a share, in line with expectations. But sales came in ahead of forecasts at $5.6 billion. Shares rose 2% after hours and added another 1% in early trading Wednesday.

Alcoa's results are viewed as the start of earnings season.  Alcoa's positive Q4 results encouraged anxious investors that Q4 might not be as sluggish as originally thought.

The company said prices have stabilized for raw aluminum and sales have increased in the higher-profit aerospace business. Economic growth in China appears to be coming back, and Europe is doing better than most people anticipated. CEO Klaus Kleinfeld also noted that the automobile and aerospace markets in the United States remain strong.

Q4 earnings for S&P 500 companies are projected to rise 3.3%, according to data from S&P Capital IQ.

Other Headliners in the Stock Market Today

Shares of aerospace giant The Boeing Co. (NYSE: BA) rebounded from losses stemming from a series of setbacks involving its new 787 Dreamliner jet.  The stock was up nearly 3% in morning trading.  

Morgan Stanley (NYSE: MS) barely budged after the investment powerhouse said it is slashing some 1,600 jobs. Shares were last changing hands at $19.60

Constellation Brands (NYSE: STZ), the leading wine and spirits distributor, gained 16 cents after reporting adjusted earnings of 63 cents per share, a 21% increase from the same quarter a year ago and better than estimates of 55 cents.

Wireless broadband provider Clearwire Corp. (Nasdaq: CLWR) shares soared almost 8% following news that Dish Network (Nasdaq: DISH) offered to buy the company for $5.15 billion. The bid sets stage for a takeover battle with Sprint Nextel Corp. (NYSE: S), which offered to buy the remaining 49% of Clearwire it doesn't already own for $2.2 billion in December.

Sprint, the third largest U.S. cellphone company, depends on Cleawire to provide high-speed Sprint 4G services on some of its phones. While Clearwire shareholders applaud the higher offer, Sprint, which owns 51% of Clearwire, is expected to put up a fight and not quickly sign off of the DISH deal.

Shares of ailing Apollo Group (Nasdaq: APOL) slumped more than 10% after the company reported a steep drop in enrollment at its University of Phoenix. This once high-flying stock hit a new low of $18.36 Wednesday. A year ago, shares peaked at $58.29.

The next big earnings news comes Friday when Wells Fargo & Co. (NYSE: WFC), the first of the big banks, reports.

Big News To Watch Next Week

Facebook Inc. (Nasdaq: FB) shares jumped nearly 3% following word the social networking giant sent invitations to the media for a special event next week at its Menlo Park headquarters.

The company provided no details. The only hint of what to expect came from the invitation's words, "Come and see what we're building."

About a year-and-a-half ago, at a similar event, Facebook unveiled a partnership with Skype.

Investors hope the news will boost Facebook in 2013 after the stock ended 2012 at $26.62, 30% below its $38 IPO price.  

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