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Stocks Eke Out Gain as Financials Rebound

Wednesday, 27 Jan 2010 | 5:11 PM ET

Stocks eked out a gain Wednesday as the debut of Apple's iPad tablet computer energized tech stocks and financials rebounded amid relief that the Fed's statement offered no surprises.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 41.87, or 0.4 percent, to close at 10,236.16. The S&P 500 gained 0.5 percent, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq advanced 0.8 percent.

Financials were the day's best performers, up 2.3 percent, followed by information technology and health care.

The CBOE volatility index, widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, eased to near 23.

Stocks had languished for much of the day amid some disappointing earnings outlooks and an unexpected drop in home sales but recovered in the last hour of trading.

After a two-day meeting, the Fed left interest rates unchanged. Policy makers kept the "extended period" languagein its statement, referring to how long they will leave interest rates low, and used some modestly better language to describe the economic recovery.

There were some fireworks on Capitol Hill: Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner came under fire during a hearing on the AIG bailout in the House today.

Rep. Stephen Lynch, a Democrat from Massachusetts, screamed at Geithner, "You had every opportunity to weigh in on behalf of the American people!" And Rep. John Mica, a Republican from Florida, told Geithner he was "giving lame excuses," to which Geithner replied: "You don't know me very well."

More news out of Washington tonight as President Obama gives his first State of the Union address. Obama's focus is expected to be jobs the and the economy amid recent criticism that he's spent too much time on health-care reform.

Both oil and gold retreated as the dollar gained strength. Bonds got a boostfrom solid demand for the five-year auction: The high yield came in at 2.375 and the bid-to-cover ratio was 2.80.

Apple shares rallied after CEO Steve Jobs announced aggressive pricing for the new iPad tablet computer: It will start at just $499 and an unlimited data deal with AT&T is $29.99 a month.

The news also energized AT&T stock. But Disney , which isalsorumored to be getting in on the iPad action, fell.

The iPad looks like a giant iPhone and features YouTube in high-def, as a way to watch TV and movies, and a Google map built in, among the other interesting features. But it was the pricing that was the biggest surprise of the announcement — Apple appears to be intentionally offering some low price points to ensure widespread adoption of the product. (Read Jim Goldman's live blog of the event.)

In the latest round of earnings, companies continued to beat expectations but several tempered their full-year outlooks, perhaps as a measure to dampen Wall Street's inflated expectations.

Caterpillar was the biggest decliner on the Dow after the heavy-equipment maker beat analyst estimates on the bottom line, but issued a weak 2010 outlook.

United Technologies also topped forecasts but the company, which makes everything from elevators to air conditioners, said it expects domestic commercial construction activity to remain weak. It's stock also finshed near the bottom of the Dow pack.

Boeing was at the top of the Dow pack after the aerospace giant swung to a profit and beat expectations with its quarterly numbers. Though, it fell short with its full-year forecast.

Rounding out the Dow's top three were Bank of America and JPMorgan .

Yahoo late Thursday hit its earnings targets and said it may see revenue growth in the first quarter, which would be the first time in six quarters.

After the bell today, we'll get earnings from Qualcomm.

Winterizing Your Portfolio - A CNBC Special Report
Winterizing Your Portfolio - A CNBC Special Report

In a turn of events in the auto industry, this time it's a Japanese car maker that's in trouble: Toyota is suspending sales of about 57 percent of its new cars and shutting down production on eight models due to a flaw that may cause sudden acceleration. The models involved are the RAV4, Corolla, Matrix, Avalon, Camry, Highlander, Tundra, and Sequoia.

Toyota's U.S.-traded shares skidded, while the news gave a boost to shares of American rival Ford.

Volume was light, with just 1.3 billion shares changing hands on the New York Stock Exchange.

Still to Come:

WEDNESDAY: Earnings from Qualcomm after the bell; Obama State of the Union
THURSDAY: Jim Chanos speaks on China bubble; durable-goods orders; seven-year auction; Earnings from 3M, AT&T, Eli Lilly, Ford, Nokia, P&G, Altria, Colgate-Palmolive, Lockheed Martin, Motorola, Microsoft and Amazon
FRIDAY: First look at Q4 GDP; Chicago PMI; consumer sentiment; Earnings from Chevron

Send comments to cindy.perman@nbcuni.com.

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