After two-day drop, stocks post broad gains

Stock indexes closed with broad gains Wednesday as international leaders scramble to save a week-old plan to prevent a financial crisis in Europe. Strong corporate earnings and a bump up in hiring by private companies also helped send markets higher after a steep two-day drop.

The Dow Jones industrial average gained 178.08 points, or 1.5 percent, to close at 11,836.04. The Dow lost 573 points the previous two days after the brokerage MF Global collapsed and Greece’s prime minister surprised markets and his own government with a call to put unpopular austerity measures to a public vote.

“It’s crazy how much the markets dropped in two days, considering that the data of the U.S. economy has actually looked pretty good,” said Barry Knapp, head of equity strategy at Barclay’s Capital. “It just shows you how fragile the investor psychology is with Greece hanging over everything.”

 

Wright Express reports increase in quarterly profit

South Portland-based Wright Express reported net income of $48.1 million, or $1.23 per diluted share, in the third quarter of 2011, up from $20.6 million, or 53 cents per share in the third quarter of 2010, the company said Wednesday.

Revenue during the three-month period, which ended Sept. 30, increased 52 percent to $151.9 million.

Wright Express, which processes automotive fuel purchases for commercial fleets and other credit card transactions, provided services to an average of 6.5 million vehicles worldwide in the third quarter, up 29 percent, according to a press release. The number of fuel transactions processed jumped 19 percent during the period to $85.1 million, and corporate card purchase volume increased 83 percent to $2.4 billion.

CEO Michael Dubyak said the best indication of the company’s financial health is adjusted net income, which reflects the company’s extensive fuel hedges.

During the third quarter, adjusted net income increased 38 percent to $38.7 million, up from $28.1 million during the period last year.

 

Court upholds ruling on ‘wardrobe malfunction’

In the latest court battle over the steamy 2004 Super Bowl halftime show, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday that CBS should not be fined $550,000 for Janet Jackson’s infamous “wardrobe malfunction.”

The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals held its ground even after the U.S. Supreme Court ordered a review after its ruling in a related Fox television case. In that case, the high court said the Federal Communications Commission could threaten fines over the use of even a single curse word uttered on live TV.

But Circuit Judge Marjorie Rendell said the Fox case only “fortifies our opinion” that the FCC was wrong to fine CBS over the halftime show.

The three-judge panel reviewed three decades of FCC rulings and concluded the agency was changing its policy, without warning, by fining CBS for fleeting nudity.

“An agency may not apply a policy to penalize conduct that occurred before the policy was announced,” Rendell wrote.

– From news service reports