U.S. stocks advance as investors await start of earnings season

Group Returns

Eight of the 10 S&P 500 industry groups rose today as consumer stocks gained the most, adding at least 0.8%. Phone stocks retreated 0.8%.

Alcoa, the first Dow member to publish results each quarter, added 1% to $8.32. The company will report an 8- cent a share profit after the close of regular trading, according to the average of 18 analysts’ estimates. That would be two cents less than the earnings it posted in the year- earlier quarter.

AMD surged 11%, the most since Jan. 23, to $2.55. Microsoft will use an AMD processor in its next Xbox game console as it seeks to cut the cost of building machines and get developers to create more titles, people with knowledge of the matter said.

The shift means Microsoft will drop the Power PC technology designed by International Business Machines Corp., and game discs made for the current Xbox 360 won’t be compatible. IBM slid 0.4% to $208.66 and Microsoft declined 0.6% to $28.53.

H7N9 Virus

BioCryst surged 15% to $1.96, adding to a 29% gain on April 5. China’s Food and Drug Administration said it expedited the approval of Peramivir as authorities reported three more infections of the deadly H7N9 virus that has killed six people in the country since March.

Lufkin soared 37% to $87.90, the highest since July 2011. GE, the world’s biggest provider of power-generation equipment and services, said it will acquire Lufkin for about $3.3 billion, or $88.50 a share. GE rose 0.5% to $23.05.

Johnson & Johnson fell 1.4% to $80.89. The world’s largest seller of health-care products may cut its earnings forecast for 2013 because of a devaluation of the Venezuelan bolivar, JPMorgan said in a note. The firm reduced the stock’s rating to neutral from overweight.

CA Inc., a maker of software for managing information technology, slipped 1.6% to $24.20. Abhey Lamba, an analyst with Mizuho Securities USA Inc., cut the stock’s rating to neutral from buy.

Netflix Streak

Netflix Inc. fell 1.9% to $161.52, extending its decline to eight consecutive days. The stock has lost 15% during the losing streak, its longest such stretch since October 2008. Competition among pay-TV vendors is increasing as Intel Corp. plans to start an online service this year while Time Warner Inc.’s Warner Bros. has recently introduced its own subscription streaming service.

Wagers that U.S. stock volatility will increase have reached a three-year high on concern American companies are getting ready to report the first slump in profit since 2009.

There were 6.54 million calls on the Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index and 2.34 million puts on April 4, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The ratio jumped to 2.93-to-1 last month, the highest since March 2010. The VIX, tracking S&P 500 option prices, has climbed 22% from its six-year low in March and lost 2.6% to 13.56 today.

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