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After The Close - The U.S. stock market put in a constructive session once more today, extending week’s gains. At the end of the session, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was ahead 55 points; the broader S&P 500 Index was higher by nine points; and the technology-heavy NASDAQ, which once again displayed some leadership, tacked on 23 points. Market breadth suggested an upward bias to the session, as advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE and the NASDAQ. Further, all of the major market sectors made contributions, with large gains in the healthcare stocks and a decent showing by the utilities. Meanwhile, the technology and basic materials issues underperformed a bit.

Technically, the S&P 500 Index, followed through on yesterday’s rally, and managed to close above the 1,800 mark. Meanwhile, the Dow managed to add to its position above 16,000. Hopefully for the bulls these averages can maintain these gains, and even move a bit higher. While no obvious catalyst is present to push the market higher, the holiday season is approaching, and that can often be a good time for equities. For now, sentiment remains bullish, as the VIX declined about 3%, to 12.28 today.

Meantime, traders received no major economic news today. However, next week, which is shortened to include the Thanksgiving holiday break, will kick off with numerous reports. The housing market will be in the spotlight early in the week, as we receive the monthly pending home sales data, housing starts, and building permits. The housing market recovery is being closely monitored, so these reports will be of some importance.

In the corporate arena, there were a few earnings reports released today that helped push the market higher. In the healthcare area, Biogen (BIIB) stock rose after the drug company announced that European regulators have approved a treatment for the disease, multiple sclerosis. The news also likely helped lift the biotechnology issues. Notably, the biotech sector has had an impressive run in recent months, and has made contributions to the current rally. Meanwhile in technology, Intel (INTC) stock slipped after the technology giant offered guidance that was a bit disappointing to some investors. Among the retailers, Gap (GPS) stock moved lower, as that company put out decent results but offered a weak outlook. However, Footlocker (FL) saw its stock rise on decent top-line figures. - Adam Rosner

At the time of this article’s writing, the author did not have positions in any of the companies mentioned.

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12:20 PM EST -  As we pass the midday hour on the East Coast, the major U.S. equity are not too far removed from the neutral line, which had been the case for much of the first half of today’s session. The NASDAQ, though, is getting a boost from the biotechnology stocks, where a few notable announcements (see below) are helping the shares of the drugmakers. Meantime, the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 Index are once again testing their all-time highs. Although the lack of any major catalysts today, either from the earnings or economic fronts, has given investors little incentive to add significantly to their positions in a market that is clearly overextended, the modest move higher, nonetheless, is another feather in the cap of the bulls.

The advance/decline spread suggests a slightly positive bias tone to trading in a session that has overall has been rather listless, despite the Dow 30 and S&P 500 Index being on the doorsteps of all-time records. The spread between issues moving higher and lower is a bit more pronounced on the NASDAQ than on the Big Board, with the latter index at times seeing more decliners than advancers.

From a sector perspective, no group is standing out from the pack among the top-10 sectors. Of note, the healthcare stocks are mildly in favor. The buying interest there is being helped by positive drug news from Biogen IDEC (BIIB) and Gilead Sciences (GILD). Specifically, European regulators announced that Biogen would have 10 years of protection for its multiple sclerosis drug Tecfidera, which gives the company the go-ahead for a European launch. Regulators also approved Gilead Sciences’ new drug for Hepatitis C. Shares of both drugmakers are up sharply on the news. Conversely, the basic materials, energy, financial, and telecommunications stocks are under mild selling pressure.

We did get some more earnings news from Corporate America this morning, and much like the rest of this week it was predominately from the retailing industry, where third quarters typically end in October. All in all, the quarterly showings were decent, particularly from an earnings standpoint. However, other than the shares of The Finish Line (FL), most of the stocks of the retailing companies that reported quarterly results are trading in the red today, including ANN Inc. (ANN), The GAP (GPS), and Ross Stores (ROST). The latter two stocks fell on weaker outlooks, as both companies are expecting a tough holiday quarter that will be the most intensely competitive and promotional selling period in recent years. Those sentiments would seem to contradict reports earlier this week showing an improvement in retail sales and tame inflation on both the consumer and wholesale levels.

Looking ahead, the main question will be if the Dow 30 and the S&P 500 Index will finish the week above 16,000 and 1,800, respectively? If they are able to hold above those levels, it could be a good sign for the bulls heading into next week’s abbreviated trading stretch. A move higher on a light news day would be a notable statement from the very emboldened bulls. Stay tuned. - William G. Ferguson

At the time of this article's writing, the author did not have positions in any of the companies mentioned.

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Stocks to Watch from The SurveyInvestors still have their hands full going over October-period earnings reports, many from retailers with fiscal years that end in January. Early reactions on Wall Street appear positive for athletic footwear seller Foot Locker (FL), telecommunications equipment company Marvell Technology (MRVL), pet supplies retailer PetSmart (PETM), design software and digital content provider Autodesk (ADSK), and Internet radio operator Pandora Media (P). Indeed, all of these stocks are moving higher ahead of the bell. Conversely, shares of grocer The Fresh Market (TFM) and apparel and accessories retailers The Gap (GPS) and Ross Stores (ROST) are indicating lower openings this morning on earnings news, with TFM and ROST showing considerable weakness. – Matthew Spencer

At the time of this article’s writing, the author did not have positions in any of the companies mentioned.

Before The Bell - The stock market forged ahead from the opening bell yesterday and never looked back, rebuffing every instance and opportunity to take profits in a market that is by all definitions now frothy and no better than fairly valued. 

As to yesterday's showing, the equity futures were higher overnight and into the pre-market hours, following a trio of ordinary, at best, performances to start the week. On point, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which had pushed forward vigorously last week and into the early trading hours on Monday, before fading in the stretch and suffering down days on Tuesday and Wednesday, got off to a compelling start yesterday. 

The early charge was fueled by not only a tame producer or wholesale inflation reading for October, but more to the point by a much better-than-expected survey on initial jobless claims. That closely watched economic survey, which is issued weekly by the Labor Department, showed that first-time applications for unemployment benefits dropped by 21,000 in the latest seven-day period. The figure, which has been falling almost uniformly over the past number of months, is now back down to where it was before the onset of the long and painful recession, which commenced in late 2007.

Also helping market sentiment--along with the stock--was news that the U.S. Government said that it expects to sell its remaining stake in carmaker General Motors (GM) by the end of 2013. The Treasury Department still has more than 31 million GM shares. The stock edged up on this news, at one point nearly eclipsing the year's high of $39.18 a share.

But in the end, it seems to have been the jobless claims data along with the Senate Banking Committee's approval of Janet Yellen to be the next leader of the Federal Reserve that gave the U.S. market a nice lift. Ms. Yellen is a popular choice to head the lead bank, as she is an acknowledged monetary dove. And whatever the long-term consequences of the Fed's historic easy money policies will be, the near-term impact has been uniformly positive for investors. Still, even with the seeming consensus that Ms. Yellen will be approved by the full Senate--and there would seem to be little doubt she will get an affirmative vote--there are many who contend that the Fed will soon start to taper its bond purchases. But we have heard that before, so we shall see.

As to the market, after flirting with 16,000 once again yesterday, the Dow managed to end above that psychological plateau with a few points to spare as that 30-stock index rose by 109 points, to end the session at 16,010--a closing record. Also, of note, the Standard and Poor's 500 Index, albeit unable to again surpass 1,800, as it had on an intraday basis on Monday, also gained nicely, closing up 14 points at 1,796. The NASDAQ, though, led the pack among the large-cap stocks gaining 48 points. The small-and mid-cap indexes, meantime, did particularly well, suggesting that a tolerance for risk is still in vogue. Interestingly, bonds, which had sold off early in the day, rallied modestly into the close pushing yields slightly lower on the day. One notable casualty, however, was gold, which backtracked once again. That setback took the recently depressed shares of Newmont Mining (NEM) down even further, to within striking distance of a 52-week low.     

Now, a new day is upon us, and it is a particularly sad one, even after all these years, and especially so for those old enough to remember where they were when they heard the tragic news that President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated in Dallas. Much has changed across the decades. And we can debate the pluses and minuses of those changes. But few can argue the fact that the world was altered notably on that Friday in November 50 years ago today. 

Meanwhile, after yesterday's further joyride by the bulls, the markets are mixed overseas, while the futures are up modestly on the home front, especially on the NASDAQ, where a nice opening is seemingly in store for the tech-laden index.   – Harvey S. Katz

At the time of this article's writing, the author did not have positions in any of the companies mentioned.