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Apr 24, 10:24 AM EDT

Mixed earnings leave US stocks without direction


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NEW YORK (AP) -- Mixed earnings from a large number of U.S. companies left the stock market without direction early Thursday, despite positive results from a handful of names including Apple and Caterpillar. 3M was among those whose results disappointed investors.

KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose less than a point to 1,876 as of 10:24 a.m. Eastern. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 13 points to 16,462 and the Nasdaq composite edged up four points to 4,131. All three indexes were moving between small gains and losses in early trading.

APPLE SOARS: Apple rose $36.78, or 7 percent, to $561.89. The company reported a profit late Wednesday of $10.2 billion, or $11.62 a share, beating forecasts. Apple also announced it would increase its share buyback program from $60 billion to $90 billion, raise its quarterly dividend, and split its stock seven-for-one.

BIG TRUCKS, BIG PROFITS: Dow member Caterpillar rose $2.69, or 2.6 percent, to $106.03. The construction equipment manufacturer said its quarterly earnings rose 5 percent from a year ago. Caterpillar also raised is 2014 profit forecast. The company earned an adjusted profit of $1.61 a share, well ahead of the $1.21 per share expected by analysts.

NEED MORE POST-ITS: Another Dow member, 3M, wasn't as fortunate. The maker of industrial coatings and Post-it notes fell $1.88, or 1.4 percent, to $136.11 after the company's results missed analysts' expectations. The Minnesota-based conglomerate earned $1.79 a share, a penny shy of forecasts. Revenue also came in short of expectations.

ANOTHER HEALTH INDUSTRY DEAL: Zimmer Holdings soared $14.03, or 15 percent, to $105.48 after announcing it would buy the privately held orthopedic device company Biomet for $13.35 billion in cash and stock. Biomet was taken private in 2007 by a group of private equity companies, and was looking to go public later this year.

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