US stocks mostly rise following solid earnings news

The U.S. stock market crept slightly higher Wednesday as investors sifted through the latest round of corporate results. Strong earnings from First Solar and Priceline sent their shares higher, while Disney slumped.

Oil prices fell, dragging energy stocks lower.

KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor's 500 index was up nine points, or 0.4 percent, to 2,102 as of 3 p.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones industrial average edged up four points, less than 0.1 percent, to 17,555, while the Nasdaq rose 41 points, or 0.8 percent, to 5,147.

CABLE TV: Walt Disney dropped 9 percent, weighing on the Dow, after reporting sales that fell short of estimates. The company also said a decrease in subscribers to ESPN could hamper its profit in the coming years. Disney's stock dropped $11.32 to $110.32.

HERE COMES THE SUN: First Solar soared 17 percent, the biggest gain in the S&P 500, following news that the country's largest solar company turned in results that beat estimates and also raised its outlook for full-year profits. Revenue climbed 65 percent in the quarter thanks to more income from its Silver State South plant in Nevada and the sale of stakes in two projects. First Solar's stock jumped $7.60 to $52.10.

ON THE ROAD: Priceline Group climbed 6 percent after the online-booking service posted profit and revenue that easily beat analysts' forecasts, helped by rising reservations for hotel rooms and rental cars. Its stock gained $75.90 to $1,359.46.

NOT SO BAD: Corporate earnings have helped support the stock market in recent weeks. Heading into the second-quarter earnings season last month, investors were braced for a sharp drop in profits. But now, with the bulk of results turned in, earnings are on track to slip just 0.2 percent, according to S&P Capital IQ.

"The expectations were that things would be terrible," said Brad McMillan, chief investment officer at the Commonwealth Financial Network. "And while they're not great, they're certainly better than expected. Look at the big picture: the only sector that's really getting killed is energy."

JOBS: Payroll processor ADP reported that companies added 185,000 jobs in July, a drop from the previous month. Investors often look to the ADP survey for clues to the Labor Department's monthly report on the job market, which is due out on Friday. Economists forecast that it will show employers added 225,000 workers in July and that the unemployment rate held steady at 5.3 percent.

CRUDE: Benchmark U.S. crude fell 59 cents to close at $45.15 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It's down sharply since rising as high as $61.43 a barrel in June. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, fell 40 cents to close at $49.59 a barrel in London.

EUROPE: Germany's DAX advanced 1.6 percent, France's CAC 40 rose 1.7 percent, and Britain's FTSE 100 added 1 percent.

ASIA'S DAY: In China, the Shanghai Composite Index slid 1.6 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 0.5 percent. Japan's Nikkei 225 rose 0.5 percent, South Korea's Kospi added 0.1 percent, while Australia's S&P/ASX 200 dropped 0.4 percent.

METALS: Most precious and industrial metals finished with losses. Gold lost $5.10 to settle at $1,085.60 an ounce while silver was flat at $14.55 an ounce. Copper lost a penny to $2.35 a pound.

BONDS: U.S. government bond prices fell, sending the yield on the 10-year Treasury note up to 2.27 percent from 2.22 percent.