* Exxon Mobil shares rise after results beat Wall Street
* Indexes on pace for strong monthly gains
* Chicago PMI well above expectations
* Jobless claims fall slightly less than expected
* Dow up 0.2 pct, S&P 500 up 0.3 pct, Nasdaq up 0.4 pct
By Luke and Swiderski
NEW YORK, Oct 31 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks edged up on
Thursday, though trading was subdued a day after a Federal
Reserve policy announcement that kept its stimulus plan in
While Thursday's rise was modest, stocks were headed for
strong gains in October. The Dow was up about 3 percent as the
month drew to a close, while the S&P 500 was up about 5 percent
and the Nasdaq rose 4.5 percent.
Shares of Exxon Mobil Corp, the world's largest
publicly traded oil company, helped support the Dow and S&P 500,
rising 1.7 percent to $90.50 after the company reported adjusted
third-quarter earnings that beat expectations.
The U.S. central bank on Wednesday said it will keep buying
$85 billion of bonds per month, noting weaker economic signals.
But it removed a phrase from a previous statment expressing
worries about credit conditions after a spike in bond yields,
which investors interpreted as a sign the Fed could begin
tapering earlier than expected.
"The Fed removed that language, and that leaves tapering on
the table for December," said Michael O'Rourke, chief market
strategist at JonesTrading, referring to the Fed's eventual
trimming of asset purchases.
The Fed's accommodative monetary policy in recent years has
contributed to stocks' rally, and investors worry about the
timing of a pullback by the Fed.
The Dow Jones industrial average inched up 27.50
points, or 0.18 percent, to 15,646.09. The S&P 500 added
4.84 points, or 0.27 percent, to 1,768.15. The Nasdaq Composite
rose 13.75 points or 0.41 percent, to 3,998.89.
Expedia jumped almost 18 percent to $58.61 and
ranked as the S&P 500's best percentage gainer on the S&P 500 a
day after reporting third-quarter earnings that exceeded
Limiting gains, Visa Inc lost 2.9 percent to $197.97,
making it the biggest drag on the Dow a day after the world's
largest credit and debit card company reported a 28 percent drop
in quarterly profit.
Thursday's economic data was mixed. A gauge of business
activity in the Midwest execeeded expectations in October, while
weekly initial jobless claims dipped in the latest week.
The Labor Department's October employment report will be an
important source of clues about the economy and future Fed
action. Until the figures, due Nov. 8, are released "we're going
to drift. We need something to send us higher", said Brian
Battle, director of trading at Performance Trust Capital.
Facebook reported strong growth in its mobile
advertising business late on Wednesday, though it said it didn't
plan to boost the frequency of ads shown to users. Facebook's
stock was up 3.2 percent at $50.60.
Of the 355 companies in the S&P 500 that had reported
earnings through Thursday morning, 68.2 percent have topped Wall
Street's expectations, above both the 63 percent beat rate since
1994 and the 66 percent beat rate for the past four quarters,
according to Thomson Reuters data.
Revenue has been mixed, however, with 53.6 percent of
companies besting expectations, well shy of the 61 percent beat
rate since 2002 but above the 49 percent rate for the past four