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Stocks & Ben Both Hold Their Own

Stocks have been quietly moving to the upside all morning...the general take is that despite vigorous questioning Mr. Bernankeis holding up well in his principal claim: that he did not threaten action against Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis or the bank's board if they abandoned the Merrill takeover, and more importantly insisted that his actions helped avert a global economic meltdown.

However, there are likely additional factors in the move up midday We are approaching the end of the quarter, as well as Russell reconstitution which will happen tomorrow. This reconstitution is a once-a-year event, and due to large price changes the reconstitution will involve unusually large numbers of shares trading, particularly in small caps. More than $4 trillion is indexed to the Russell indices.

One sector outperforming today is retailers. There are several reasons:

1) lots of consolidation talk, as Tween Brands, which runs the Justice and Limited Too stores, and a Dress Barn subsidiary announced an all-stock merger. These companies have little in common, and seems to have been done for cost-savings reasons, which is spurring speculation that other deals may be coming in the retail space.

For example, there has been considerable speculation about a combination of Office Max and Office Depot to compete against Staples, their stronger rival. Both are up 7 percent today.

3) Bed Bath and Beyond had earnings better than expected and is up 10 percent.

4) JP Morgan upgraded JC Penney, which is up 6 percent, noting they are likely going to beat estimates, while American Eagle was upgraded to a strong buy at Buckingham.

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  • A CNBC reporter since 1990, Bob Pisani covers Wall Street from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

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