US STOCKS-Wall St edges higher during earnings flurry
* Jobless claims rise less than expected; Philly Fed jumps
* Google, IBM shares fall a day after posting earnings
* Morgan Stanley rallies after results
* Dow up 0.04 pct; S&P 500 up 0.2 pct; Nasdaq up 0.4 pct (Updates to early afternoon; adds UnitedHealth and Baker Hughes)
By Rodrigo Campos
NEW YORK, April 17 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks advanced slightly in choppy trading on Thursday after three days of gains, as underwhelming results from tech bellwethers Google and IBM were offset by upbeat quarterly numbers, including those from Morgan Stanley and General Electric.
The latest data showed the U.S. economy's health was improving. The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits rose less than expected in the latest week and came near pre-recession levels. Factory activity in the U.S. mid-Atlantic region expanded in April at a faster clip than anticipated, according to a survey from the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
The combined reported and expected earnings-per-share growth estimate for S&P 500 components rose to 1.7 percent from Wednesday's 0.6 percent, Thomson Reuters data showed, indicating most companies that reported results in the past 24 hours exceeded expectations.
The technology sector capped the S&P 500's gain, with Google shares down 3.2 percent at $545.81 and IBM off 3.2 percent at $190.28 after both reported earnings late Wednesday that failed to impress Wall Street. Their results raised questions about those of other tech-sector companies. Continuación...