Apr 8 - Summary of business headlines: J.C. Penney CEO Ron Johnson replaced; Wall Street climbs ahead of Alcoa earnings; After close Alcoa beats profit consensus; GE buys Lufkin for $3 billion in shale play. Conway G. Gittens reports.
After swinging up and down, Wall Street gained modest confidence into the close as investors get ready for first-quarter earnings season. The Dow added 48 points, the S&P rose 9 and the Nasdaq gained 18. More on earnings in a minute, but first, Ron Johnson - the head of J.C. Penney is out. The struggling department store retailer barely mentioned his name in the press release, just saying Ron Johnson is stepping down and leaving the company. Johnson was head of J.C. Penney since November 2011. Under his watch, there were a number of mis-steps including confusion over discounts and pricing, which inspired little confidence among shoppers and investors. Shares of the company lost half of their value since he came on board. The person who Johnson replaced - Mike Ullman - is coming back to take his old job. After the close we heard from Alcoa. The aluminum company beat earnings forecasts. Revenues came in slightly below the consensus. But what investors may be looking at most is the fact that Alcoa is standing by full-year targets for growth in aluminum demand of 7 percent. General Electric is buying Lufkin Industries for just under $3 billion. GE is picking up the oil field pump maker to benefit from the fast-growing market to extract oil and natural gas from shale rock. This deal is the latest to form the new GE under CEO Jeff Immelt, who has shed non-industrial and slower performing units. Shares of GE - up for the day and rallying almost 19 percent over the last 12 months. Shares of Lufkin gushing 37.6 percent - close to the $88 officer price. Are old wounds reopening in the European crisis? The European Commission is strongly urging Portugal to find new cost cuts after that country's constitutional court rejected austerity measures aimed at the nation's civil servants. The rejection could further up-end the European Union. By the way, U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew is in the region this week. As for the numbers, stocks nudged higher in light volume with European investors awaiting first-quarter earnings season.