Hope for a European debt deal lifts markets

NEW YORK (AP) ? Stocks rose in early trading Thursday as European officials moved closer to signing off on a plan to ease the region’s debt crisis.

European leaders are expected to finalize a new aid package for Greece at an emergency meeting in Brussels. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said European officials want to tackle the “root” of the crisis by reducing Greece’s debt burden.

Worries about Europe’s debt crisis have been hanging over markets for months. The fear is that a default by Greece or another deeply indebted country could roil credit markets and damage Europe’s banking system.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 160 points, or 1.3 percent, to 12,732. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 19 points, or 1.4 percent, to 1,345.

The Nasdaq composite rose 31 points to 2,845. Technology stocks rose less than the rest of the market. Intel Corp. slipped 2 percent after the chip maker said it expects weaker PC sales for the rest of the year.

Government bond prices fell, pushing their yields higher, on expectations that European officials will put together a new aid package for Greece. The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 2.97 percent, up from 2.93 percent late Wednesday. The euro rose about a penny to $1.43.

In a deal announced Thursday, Express Scripts said it would buy Medco Health Solutions for $29.1 billion. The merger would combine the largest U.S. pharmacy benefits managers. Medco’s stock rose 15 percent and Express Scripts gained 6 percent.

A measure of manufacturing activity in the Philadelphia region rose in July after reaching a two-year low during the previous month.

Philip Morris International and Morgan Stanley are up sharply in early trading after their earnings results beat analysts’ estimates.

Morgan Stanley reported a quarterly loss that was much smaller than analysts expected thanks to an increase in trading revenues. The investment bank took a loss of 38 cents a share. Its stock jumped 6 percent.

Philip Morris International rose more than 4 percent in early trading after its net income grew more than 21 percent. The cigarette maker also increased its full-year earnings forecast.

Union Pacific Corp. gained 4 percent. The railroad’s profit increased 10 percent thanks to higher shipping prices and a pickup in the number of carloads it carries.

The stock market edged lower on Wednesday. Analysts say concerns about lifting the U.S. debt limit outweighed strong earnings from Apple Inc. and a slew of corporate deals.

Advanced Micro Devices Inc. and Microsoft Corp. are scheduled to report earnings after the market closes.