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Friday, 20 January 2012 | 00:12
DJ30 PointChange: +96.50 Level: 12720.48 NASDAQ PointChange: -1.63 Level: 2786.7 NQ100 PercentChange: -0.2 R2K PercentChange: +0.3 SP400 PercentChange: +0.0 SP500 PointChange: +0.88 Level: 1315.38 NASDAQ-Adv:1515 Dec: 996 NYSE-Adv:1734 Dec: 1242

[BRIEFING.COM] The S&P 500 poked into positive territory in the final minutes of the session to book its best closing level since summer. Although it made for only an incremental gain, the broad market measure has now finished in higher ground for four straight sessions. That helped the broad market book a 2.0% weekly gain, which marked its third consecutive weekly climb.

Action was mostly muddled today, but financials made a late emergence to score a 0.7% gain and give the stock market a helpful lift. The sector had spent most of the session mired near the neutral line as participants processed quarterly reports from regional lenders Comerica (CMA 29.58, +0.90) and Fifth Third Bancorp (FITB 13.18, -0.38) and financial services outfit American Express (AXP 50.04, -0.91). Fifth Third was the only one that came short of the consensus earnings estimate.

A raft of heavy hitters from the tech sector was out with results, too. Between Google (GOOG 586.00, -53.57), IBM (IBM 188.52, +8.00), Microsoft (MSFT 29.71, +1.59), and Intel (INTC 26.38, +0.75), Google was the only one that failed to generate the earnings that Wall Street had expected. The sector settled with a narrow gain of 0.2%.

Not to be overlooked, blue chip conglomerate General Electric (GE 19.15, +0.00) posted an upside earnings surprise of its own. It was subjected to early pressure, but overcame the selling to settle at the flat line.

Plenty of market action in recent weeks has been driven by the dollar-euro dynamic, given the tacit signals about economic health and financial sentiment conveyed by the currencies. Relative to a collection of competing currencies, the greenback mustered an incremental gain after three straight slides that resulted in a weekly loss of about 1.7%. The euro slipped just 0.2% against the greenback, but still settled the week with a 2.0% gain at $1.29.

Economic data was limited to December existing home sales, which hit an annualized rate of 4.61 million units. That bested the rate of 4.55 million units that had been generally expected.

The combination of earnings reports from several widely-held names and monthly options expirations helped lift share volume above recent levels, but the final tally on the NYSE remained less than 1 billion.

Leading up to the week's end, trade on Thursday saw stocks score varied gains as participants digested a deluge of data and a raft of earnings reports. Overall consumer prices were unchanged during December, but core prices increased by 0.1% when both had been expected to increase by 0.1%. As for weekly initial jobless claims, they made a surprisingly sharp drop to a multi-year low of 352,000. Housing starts for December were somewhat disappointing since they fell to an annualized rate of 657,000, which is less than the rate of 673,000 units that had been expected. The Philadelphia Fed Survey for January hit 7.3, but that was still shy of the 10.0 that had been expected among many economists.

Earnings in focus on Thursday featured upside surprises from eBay (EBAY 31.92, +0.41), United Health (UNH 52.27, -0.05), Union Pacific (UNP 112.84, +0.66), Freeport McMoRan (FCX 43.10, -1.27), and Morgan Stanley (MS 18.39, +0.11). Bank of America (BAC 7.07, +0.11) actually came short of the bottom line consensus. Eastman Kodak (EK 0.31, +0.01) came into focus for its declaration of bankruptcy.

Trade on Wednesday took Goldman Sachs (GS 108.74, +1.06) sharply higher after the investment bank and brokerage outfit posted an upside earnings surprise. Yahoo! (YHOO 15.96, -0.16) also got a bid when it was learned that co-founder Jerry Yang will leave the company.

Data was limited to news that producer prices for December slipped by 0.1%, but core producer prices increased by 0.3%. Many economists had expected that each price measure to increase by 0.1%. Separately, industrial production during December increased by 0.4%, which is only slightly less than the 0.5% increase that had been broadly anticipated.

There was some mid-week buzz about the International Monetary Fund wanting to expand its lending capacity, reportedly in the range of $600 billion to $1 trillion, in order to be able to meet a perceived financing shortfall. That same day the World Bank lowered its global growth forecast to reflect 2012 growth of 2.5% and 2013 growth of 3.1%.

Since domestic markets were closed on Monday in observance of Martin Luther King Day, the week started on Tuesday with traders encouraged by news that China's fourth quarter GDP climbed 8.9% from the prior year. Even though that marked a deceleration from the 9.1% annual rate posted in the prior month, it proved better than what had been anticipated by many. The country also reported that retail sales and industrial production for December climbed at a double-digit clip from one year ago.

Although they would offer leadership later in the week, financials faltered Tuesday as participants responded to an earnings miss from Citigroup (C 29.64, +0.31) and in-line results from Wells Fargo (WFC 30.54, +0.39).

Source: Briefing

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