NEW YORK - Solid quarterly results from a range of big companies helped send the stock market higher Thursday. The standout was Visa (V), whose 10 percent jump helped tug the Dow Jones industrial average up more than 220 points.
Visa, the world's largest payment-processing company, turned in quarterly earnings late Wednesday that topped Wall Street's forecasts, and it announced plans to spend as much as $5 billion on buying its own shares. Visa's stock gained $21.99 to close at $236.65.
Investors got plenty of encouraging news. Before the market opened, the government said 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.
"It's another report that indicates the economy can stand on its own two feet," said Peter Cardillo, chiefmarket economist at Rockwell Global Capital Management, referring to the government's estimate of economic growth.
The Standard & Poor's 500 index gained 12.35 points, or 0.6 percent, to finish at 1,994.65. The Nasdaq composite rose 16.91 points, or 0.4 percent, ending at 4,566.14.
The Dow Jones industrial average surged 221.11 points, or 1.3 percent, to close at 17,195.42. Unlike other market measures, the Dow weighs its roster of 30 large corporations by their stock prices rather than by their market capitalization. That means companies with the most expensive stocks, such as Visa and Goldman Sachs (GS), have more power to drive the average up or down.
The world's second-largest card-payment company, MasterCard (MA), 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 $7.14, or 9 percent, to $83.13.
Sam Stovall, chief equity strategist at S&P Capital IQ, saw a number of optimistic signs for the market. Reports that Visa and MasterCard are handling more transactions could mean Americans will be more likely to open their wallets during the holiday shopping season. What's more, the market is approaching a stretch that nearly always rewards investors.
"We're entering the best six months of the year, November through April," Stovall said. Since World War II, the market has climbed 94 percent of the time, for an average gain of 15 percent.
Rising corporate earnings have helped turn the market higher in recent weeks. More than half of the S&P 500's members have released their third-quarter results, and roughly 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, with health care companies reporting the largest profit gains.
BorgWarner (BWA), a maker of auto parts, said a slide in the value of foreign currencies against the dollar will hamper its results this year. The company, which operates in 19 countries, cut its forecast for full-year profits and sales. BorgWarner slumped $2.49, or 4 percent, to $54.37.
In Europe, France's CAC 40 gained 0.7 percent and Germany's DAX edged up 0.4 percent. Britain's FTSE 100 rose 0.1 percent.
Back in the U.S., the price of the 10-year Treasury note edged up, and its yield, which moves in the opposite direction, slipped to 2.31 percent from 2.32 percent late Wednesday.
Gold lost $26.30 to settle at $1,198.60 an ounce, silver fell 84 cents to $16.42 an ounce and copper fell four cents to $3.06 a pound.
In other commodity trading, the price of oil fell as the dollar strengthened, making oil priced in dollars less attractive to overseas buyers. Benchmark U.S. crude fell $1.08 to close at $81.12 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oil used by many U.S. refineries, fell 88 cents to close at $86.24 on the ICE Futures exchange in London.
In other energy futures trading on the NYMEX:
-- Wholesale gasoline fell 2.5 cents to close at $2.196 a gallon.
-- Heating oil fell 2.2 cents to close at $2.513 a gallon.
-- Natural gas rose 3.9 cents to close at $3.827 per 1,000 cubic feet.