Richard Drew, Associated Press
A screen on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2013, shows the closing number for the Standard & Poor's 500n Index.

NEW YORK — Stocks edged higher Thursday as investors reacted to another slate of corporate earnings, this time from Ford, AT&T and the industrial conglomerate 3M, among others.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 90 points, or 0.6 percent, to 15,503 as of 11:30 a.m. Eastern. The Standard & Poor's 500 index was up five points, or 0.3 percent, to 1,751 and the Nasdaq composite was up 20 points, or 0.5 percent, to 3,927.

It's one of the busiest weeks on Wall Street for corporate earnings. Roughly a third of the S&P 500 will report results, including some of the world's most well-known companies.

Ford said it earned an adjusted profit of 45 cents per share — a record for the third quarter — as sales rose 12 percent to $36 billion. The Dearborn, Mich.-based automaker sold 1.5 million cars and trucks in the period, up 16 percent. Wall Street analysts had expected Ford to earn 37 cents per share, according to data from FactSet. Ford rose 25 cents, or 1.5 percent, to $17.78.

3M, one of the 30 stocks in the Dow average, beat Wall Street expectations as well, sending its shares up 70 cents, or 1 percent to $123.90.

3M, whose many products include facial masks and Post-it notes, earned $1.78 per share in the third quarter, up from $1.65 per share in same quarter a year ago. Revenue rose 6 percent to $7.92 billion. Analysts surveyed by FactSet expected earnings of $1.75 per share on revenue of $7.86 billion.

AT&T fell 50 cents, or 1 percent, to $34.77. The telecommunications company said late Wednesday it had an adjusted profit of 66 cents in the third quarter, a penny above expectations, however revenue fell slightly short of what analysts expected.

After the bell, investors will have results from technology giants Amazon and Microsoft to work through.

So far, corporate earnings have come in pretty much as most money managers expected. Companies are reporting bigger profits, but most of the growth has come from cost-cutting — a practice that hasn't changed since the financial crisis.

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"We're in a slow-growth economy and companies need to do everything to boost earnings," said Brian Reynolds, chief market strategist at Rosenblatt Securities.

Investors had a few pieces of economic data to look at as well.

The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits dropped 12,000 to a seasonally adjusted 350,000 last week, though the total was elevated for the third straight week by technical problems in California.

Also, the U.S. trade deficit widened slightly in August as exports slipped for a second month. Farmers shipped fewer agricultural products, which offset strong exports for American-made cars, according to the Commerce Department.