NEW YORK (AP) _ Stocks rose today, but dropped from early morning highs despite optimism that corporate profits in the second quarter will meet expectations.

At noon on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average was up 15.69 at 8,951.27, the fourth consecutive day of gains for the blue-chip index. The Dow was up as much as 56 points before retreating.

Broad-market indicators were also higher today, including the technology-laden Nasdaq composite index which lost 14 points on Thursday.

Investors today focused on the profit outlook for the second quarter, which many believe will be satisfactory thanks to the continuing health of the U.S. economy along with low inflation and interest rates.

``There is a more comfortable feeling about the second quarter,'' said Anthony O'Bryan, a market analyst at A.G. Edwards & Sons in St. Louis. ``Earnings estimates have been lower, so expectations have been lower and that should make it easier for earnings to meet expectations.

``Also, we've already seen so many negative reports on the second quarter that I think the worst of the negative surprises may be behind us,'' he said.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a narrow margin on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume came to 234.95 million shares, down from 296.19 million shares on Thursday.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index was up 4.01 at 1,133.29, the NYSE composite index was up 1.18 at 577.32, and the American Stock Exchange composite index was up 0.75 at 714.71.

The Nasdaq composite index was up 1.17 at 1,864.42, erasing some of Thursday's losses. Boosting the Nasdaq today was Microsoft, up 1 7/8 at 103 7/16, and Cisco Systems, up 1 3/4 at 88 13/16.

Overseas, Tokyo's Nikkei stock average rose 0.5 percent, Frankfurt's DAX index rose 0.1 percent and London's FT-SE 100 rose 0.3 percent.