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US indexes are mixed in midday trading; Big gain in Visa drives Dow average higher

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NEW YORK — U.S. stocks drifted in Thursday 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 five points, or 0.3 percent, to 1,988 as of 12:10 p.m. Eastern time. The Nasdaq composite fell four points, a fraction of a percent, to 4,545. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 147 points, or 0.9 percent, at 17,121.

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 less-volatile four-week average declined to 281,000, the lowest level since May 2000.

ONE TAKE: "It's another report that indicates the economy can stand on its own two feet," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Rockwell Global Capital Management, referring to the government's estimate of economic growth. "At the same time, it somewhat heightens the fear factor in the markets that the Fed may raise interest rates sooner than later."

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 $19.96, or 9 percent, $234.62. Without Visa, the Dow would be down two points.

OUTLIER: Unlike other market measures, the Dow weighs its roster of 30 large corporations by their stock prices rather than by their market size. That means companies with the most expensive stocks, such as Visa and Goldman Sachs, have more power to drive the average up or down.

PHOTO: FILE - In this Oct. 8, 2014 file photo, a Wall Street address is carved in the side of a building in New York. U.S. stocks are drifting in early trading Thursday, Oct. 30, 2014, as a parade of big companies turn in quarterly results. A strong gain for Visa pulled the Dow Jones industrial average higher. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)
FILE - In this Oct. 8, 2014 file photo, a Wall Street address is carved in the side of a building in New York. U.S. stocks are drifting in early trading Thursday, Oct. 30, 2014, as a parade of big companies turn in quarterly results. A strong gain for Visa pulled the Dow Jones industrial average higher. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

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 $5.60, or 7 percent, to $81.60.

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.

EUROPE: France's CAC 40 gained 0.7 percent and Germany's DAX edged up 0.3 percent. Britain's FTSE 100 rose 0.2 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 its 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 $1.29 to $80.91 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Gold sank $25 to $1,199.60 an ounce.

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