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Thursday, 19 January 2012 | 00:00
DJ30 PointChange: +96.88 Level: 12578.95 NASDAQ PointChange: +41.63 Level: 2769.71 NQ100 PercentChange: +1.4 R2K PercentChange: +1.8 SP400 PercentChange: +1.6 SP500 PointChange: +14.37 Level: 1308.04 NASDAQ-Adv:1948 Dec: 603 NYSE-Adv:2406 Dec: 632

[BRIEFING.COM] Stocks started the session at the flat line, but were able to put together a steady ascent that took the broad market to its best level in several months.

Participants initially assumed a positive posture ahead of the open as they took into consideration mixed action abroad and word that the International Monetary Fund would like 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. Strikingly, the news came the same day that the World Bank lowered its global growth forecast. The World Bank now expects an increase of 2.5%, down from a 3.6% increase, for 2012 and growth of 3.1%, down from 3.6%, for 2013.

However, support for stocks waned with the approach of the open. That left the major equity averages to start the session on a flat note, but technology stocks, which collectively represent the largest sector by market weight, were quick to offer leadership. They scored a 1.6% gain and helped keep the tech-rich Nasdaq out in front of its counterparts for virtually the entire day.

Yahoo! (YHOO 15.92, +0.49) was among the Nasdaq's better performers following news that the Internet search firm's co-founder Jerry Yang will be departing from the company. Still, semiconductor stocks shined the brightest in the Nasdaq; they climbed 5.0%, as measured by the Philadelphia Semiconductor Index.

Not to be overshadowed, financials rallied back from an early slip to score a 1.7% gain as a group. The move was led by investment bank and brokerage play Goldman Sachs (GS 104.31, +6.63), which proved itself a deft navigator of murky market conditions and persistently precarious conditions in Europe by posting an upside earnings surprise that likely fueled some short-covering among those who had been pessimistic about the firm's prospects in the face of formidable headwinds. By extension, shares of Morgan Stanley (MS 17.35, +1.10) bounced ahead of the firm's quarterly report tomorrow morning. Strength in the sector came even though a handful of other financial outfits, including U.S. Bancorp (USB 29.08, +0.31) and Northern Trust (NTRS 41.22, -0.71), offered up results that were more mixed overall.

A stronger euro helped perpetuate a positive tone among market participants. As of the closing bell, the currency had climbed 0.9% against the greenback. It now sports a week-to-date gain of 1.4%.

Although the broad market was able to work its way up to a sizable gain and settle at its highest level since this past summer, many defensive-oriented issues failed to follow the action. Instead, utilities and consumer staples stocks settled at the flat line, while telecom mustered a mere gain of 0.3%.

Economic data was pretty much shrugged off by market participants. 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%. Industrial production during December increased by 0.4%, which is only slightly less than the 0.5% increase that had been broadly anticipated.

Advancing Sectors: Financial +1.7%, Tech +1.6%, Consumer Discretionary +1.6%, Energy +1.5%, Materials +1.1%, Industrials +0.9%, Health Care +0.5%, Telecom +0.3%
Unchanged: Utilities, Consumer Staples
Declining Sectors: None

Source: Briefing

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