Markets & Finance

Stocks Close Solidly Higher


Stocks extended their gains to finish higher on Wednesday, as investors scooped up tech bargains and heavyweights like Honeywell International (HON) helped blue chips end in triple-digit territory.

In a volatile session, techs were hit early by earnings concerns and telecom comments, but bargain hunting and short-covering ensued. The Dow, meanwhile, was the top performer all day, with gainers including General Motors (GM) and Caterpillar (CAT).

Among Wednesday's stocks in the news, computer networking equipment maker Cisco Systems (CSCO) posted modest gains in a partial recovery from Tuesday's losses. The shares were battered on Tuesday by rumors Cisco would warn of weak earnings, according to wire reports.

And IDEC Pharmaceuticals (IDPH) gained 3 points after the drugmaker said it expects earnings of $0.17 per share in the first quarter, based on $235 million in sales for its Rituxan product.

Meanwhile, Sears (S) shares moved higher by more than $2 after the retailer said it sees first quarter earnings per share of $0.93 vs. $0.45 one year earlier. Sears cited strength in its retail segment -- and its focus on boosting margins and trimming expenses.

Despite Wednesday's upside, investors still have some trepidation about earnings. And this week is just the beginning for first quarter profit reports. On Thursday, Wall Street will be eagerly awaiting General Electric's (GE) conference call with analysts at 11:00 am EDT. The company plans to make the call available to investors online.

The Dow Jones industrial average surged 173.06 points, or 1.70%, to 10,381.73. The Nasdaq Composite index added 24.49 points, or 1.41%, to 1,767.06. And the broader Standard & Poor's 500 index, meanwhile, was up 12.47 points, or 1.12%, to 1,139.27. Gainers included cyclicals, biotechs, networking, photo products, tires, and oil and gas stocks.

Treasury Market

U.S. Treasuries closed down, with profit taking and the issuance of over $6 billion in new corporate debt weighing on the market. There were no significant data releases on Wednesday, notes Standard & Poor's MMS. On Friday, traders will analyze the latest retail sales report, the producer price index and the Michigan consumer sentiment index.

World Markets

European markets finished higher. In London, the Financial Times-Stock Exchange 100 index was up 49.50 points, or 0.96%, to 5,229.10, taking a cue from U.S. equities. In France, the CAC 40 added 57.92 points, or 1.30%, to 4,521.83. In Germany, the DAX Index gained 95.11 points, or 1.84%, to 5,265.36, as the country's balance of trade widens due to signs of an economic recovery.

In Asia, the markets ended mixed. Japan's Nikkei climbed 104.09 points, or 0.94%, to 11,218.58, led by the banking sector. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index fell 90.55 points, or 0.84%, to 10,643.14.


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