* Alcoa shares rise after positive outlook for the year
* Clearwire rises after DISH offer, Sprint falls
* Indexes up: Dow 0.6 pct, S&P 0.4 pct, Nasdaq 0.5 pct
By Angela Moon
NEW YORK, Jan 9 U.S. stocks edged higher on Wednesday after Alcoa got the earnings season under way with better-than-expected revenue and an encouraging outlook for the year.
The market's rise came after two-days of declines as there were few catalysts to give direction and investors fretted about the start of earnings season after the prior quarter's lackluster performance.
Alcoa Inc said late on Tuesday it expects global demand for aluminum to grow in 2013, though the company expressed concern about the impact on business from a confrontation in Washington over the U.S. budget. Shares of Alcoa, the largest U.S. aluminum producer, rose 0.5 percent to $9.15.
Profits were expected to beat the previous quarter's meager 0.1 percent rise. Both earnings and revenues in the fourth quarter were expected to grow by 1.9 percent, according to Thomson Reuters data.
But the lowered expectations leave room for companies to surprise investors even if their results aren't particularly strong, analysts said.
The current quarter was shaping up like the one before, with companies lowering expectations in recent weeks, James Dailey, portfolio manager of TEAM Asset Strategy Fund in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, said.
"So the big question and focus is on revenue, and Alcoa had better-than-expected revenue," calming the market a little, Dailey said.
The Dow Jones industrial average was up 73.35 points, or 0.55 percent, at 13,402.20. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was up 5.16 points, or 0.35 percent, at 1,462.31. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 14.83 points, or 0.48 percent, at 3,106.64.
Among other earnings, Constellation Brands, whose labels include Robert Mondavi and Ravenswood wines, reported higher profit and raised its earnings forecast. The stock was down 0.8 percent at $35.74.
Apollo Group Inc slid more than 11 percent after it reported lower student sign-ups for the third straight quarter and cut its operating profit outlook for 2013. Apollo's shares were last at $18.63.
Dish Network Corp late Tuesday announced a bid for Clearwire Corp that trumped Sprint Nextel Corp's $2.2 billion offer, setting the stage for a battle over the wireless service provider.
Dish Network shares were up 2.1 percent at $36.73. Clearwire was up 7.5 percent at $3.14, while Sprint lost 2 percent to $5.85.
Hard drive maker Seagate Technology rose 4.2 percent to $32.70 after it raised its second-quarter revenue forecast.