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Wall Street earnings are up, due to strong profit reports for Alcoa and CSX

Wall Street earnings are strong in the second quarter for US business giants Alcoa and CSX, helping the stock markets rise on Tuesday.

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In this photo taken July 12, traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Upbeat reports from Alcoa and CSX to kick off Wall Street earnings season are sending stocks higher.

AP Photo/Richard Drew

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The stock market got a shot of confidence and adrenaline from the start of second-quarter earnings season.

Investors were enthusiastic Tuesday about better-than-expected profits from aluminum maker Alcoa Inc. and railroad operator CSX Corp. The Dow Jones industrial average nearly 175 points in afternoon trading, and the major indexes were up well over 1 percent.

The companies, among the first to report second-quarter earnings, also issued upbeat forecasts for the rest of the year. That was heartening news for investors who have been concerned that the recovery was stalling, or that the economy might even fall back into recession.

"When we go back to earnings and fundamentals, companies are delivering," said Tom Karsten, senior managing partner at Karsten Financial in Fort Worth, Texas.

Alcoa's earnings reports are closely watched because its varied customer base provides a snapshot of a broad range of other industries. It is also a component of the Dow Jones industrial average. CSX also provides insight into economic activity because it ships a wide range of products.

Alcoa said global consumption of aluminum will grow this year by more than it had forecast just three months ago. There have been concerns that the global economic recovery will end as many European nations face mounting government debt problems and high unemployment slows growth in the U.S.

CSX, meanwhile, said it sees its the economy's upward momentum continuing this year.

Frank Ingarra, co-portfolio manager of Hennessy Funds in Stamford, Conn., said Alcoa and CSX's results lifted the market because they hit on the two themes that traders are looking for in earnings: revenue growth and optimistic outlooks.

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"That's why the earnings were so good," Ingarra said. "You saw that top-line growth and good guidance."

During the recession, companies that made money often did so by cutting costs rather than bringing in sales. So sales growth is a sign that business is indeed picking up.

The Commerce Department reported Tuesday that the U.S. trade deficit increased to its widest level in 18 months as an increase in exports was outpaced by rising imports. A jump in both imports and exports is a sign that the economy is growing.

Earnings will likely continue to dictate trading over the next few weeks as hundreds of companies release results. Chipmaker Intel Corp. reports earnings after the close of stock trading Tuesday. It is considered a good gauge of the health of the economy since its sales are driven by consumers and businesses buying computers. Retail sales have remained sluggish in recent months amid high unemployment.

European markets rose following the earnings reports from Alcoa and CSX, which were released after markets closed Monday. Investors there brushed off a credit rating downgrade to Portugal's debt.

In afternoon trading, the Dow rose 174.22, or 1.7 percent, to 10,390.49. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 18.90, or 1.8 percent, to 1,097.65, while the Nasdaq composite index rose 46.08, or 2.1 percent, to 2,244.44.

Alcoa shares rose 17 cents to $11.04. CSX dipped 80 cents to $52.66 after rising earlier in the day. Intel shares rose 50 cents to $21.07.

One company whose shares struggled despite the broad gains Tuesday was Apple Inc. The stock dropped $4.14, or 1.6 percent, to $253.15 a day after Consumer Reports said it would not recommend buying the company's new iPhone because of its antenna design.

Only 350 stocks fell on the New York Stock Exchange while 2,680 rose. Volume came to 726.8 million shares.

The Dow has risen for five straight sessions. Last week was the best week for the Dow since July 2009. It followed those gains with a modest climb of 18 points Monday.

If the Dow holds its gains Tuesday, it would be the first six-day winning streak since a stretch in late April that sent the index to its highest level of the year. The Dow remains nearly 9 percent below that April high despite the recent gains.

Stocks had sold off in May and June because of worries that the economy was slowing. Tim Courtney, chief investment officer at Burns Advisory Group in Oklahoma City, said investors were selling as they tried to predict how much a slowdown in the economy would affect earnings. However, Courtney said, the sell-off went too far, which has helped the market in recent days.

"Generally the market overreacts," he said.

Bond prices dipped as investors taking more chances on stocks retreated from the safety of government debt. The yield on the 10-year note rose to 3.12 percent from 3.07 percent late Monday. Its yield helps set interest rates on consumer loans and mortgages.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies rose 19.42, or 3.1 percent, to 641.03.

Overseas, Britain's FTSE 100 rose 2 percent, Germany's DAX index gained 1.9 percent, and France's CAC-40 rose 2 percent. Japan's Nikkei stock average fell 0.1 percent.

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