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Friday, 24 February 2012 | 00:00
DJ30 PointChange: +46.02 Level: 12984.69 NASDAQ PointChange: +23.81 Level: 2956.98 NQ100 PercentChange: +0.6 R2K PercentChange: +1.8 SP400 PercentChange: +0.9 SP500 PointChange: +5.80 Level: 1363.46 NASDAQ-Adv:1818 Dec: 735 NYSE-Adv:2164 Dec: 843

[BRIEFING.COM] After an early slip stocks battled back to book solid gains. The effort resulted in a multi-month closing high for the S&P 500 and a multi-year closing high for the Dow.

Stocks were without leadership in the early going as market participants had an underwhelming response to news that initial weekly jobless claims remain near four-year lows. The latest tally totaled 351,000, which is unchanged week over week, and generally on par with the 355,000 initial claims that had been broadly expected.

Overnight news that the European Union expects eurozone GDP for 2012 to decline by 0.3% instead of expand by 0.5%, as had been previously projected, seemed to undermine sentiment, but only seemed to delay a rally by the euro. By session's end the euro was sporting a 0.9% gain at $1.337.

Although the initial inclination among traders was to sell, buyers were quick to step back in with a bid. Momentum petered out when the S&P 500 came in contact with its weekly closing high, but a late lift took the broad market measure to its best close in nearly 10 months and within a fraction of its best close since 2008.

Financials were the session's top performers, although the sector had a relatively sluggish start. Diversified financial services plays and brokerage issues led the sector's advance in a strong follow-up to a weak performance in the prior session. Collectively, financials climbed 1.0% for the day.

Shares of struggling retailer Sears (SHLD 61.80, +9.72) surged as many traders cheered the company's strategy in spite of a deep earnings miss, contributing to the Nasdaq's outperformance. Hewlett-Packard (HPQ 27.05, -1.89), Kohl's (KSS 49.11, -3.08), and Target (TGT 54.50, +1.53) all posted upside earnings surprises, but each issued downside guidance.

Even though the latest weekly oil inventory report's bigger-than-expected build of 1.63 million barrels was regarded as a bearish cue, oil prices extended their upward trend by climbing 1.4% to set a new multi-month closing high of $107.89 per barrel. The energy component's climb comes in conjunction with geopolitical concerns in Iran.

A strong auction of 7-year Notes brought Treasuries into closer focus today. The sale drew a bid-to-cover ratio of 3.11, dollar demand of $90.2 billion, and an indirect bidder participation rate of 41.8%. For comparison, an average of the past six auctions results in a bid-to-cover ratio of 2.83, dollar demand of $82.1 billion, and an indirect bidder rate of 34.9%. The benchmark 10-year Note briefly saw its yield dip below 2.00% before inching back up to that mark by session's end.

Advancing Sectors: Financials +1.0%, Telecom +0.7%, Consumer Discretionary +0.5%, Consumer Staples +0.5%, Energy +0.5%, Tech +0.5%, Industrials +0.1%, Materials +0.1%, Health Care +0.1%
Declining Sectors: Utilities -0.2%

Source: Briefing

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