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Stocks Turn Higher Before Close; Tech Slips

Abby Schultz, JeeYeon Park
Thursday, 14 Apr 2011 | 3:55 PM ET

Stocks took a brighter tone in the last hour of trading as the broader market gained, although banks and tech stocks remained lower.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose more than 15 points after falling more than 100 early in the session, in another choppy, low-volume day.

Coca Cola and Kraft gained, while JPMorgan and Hewlett-Packard slipped.

The S&P 500 rose slightly, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq traded flat to lower. The CBOE Volatility Index, widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, fell to nearly 16.

Among key S&P sectors, energy and consumer staples rose, while financials and techs slipped.

"The bears had their opening in the beginning of the market and didn’t make it happen," said Uri Landesman, president at Platinum Partners. "I think people are afraid to fight the tape here, I don’t think it’s much more than that."

There are also technical factors at play. Landesman said bullish investors realized they could push the market higher when the S&P failed to break lower than 1,283-1,284.

Nonetheless, he said "it's incredible that the markets have been going straight up with everything going on in the world, " and added, "I don’t see how you get an expanding economy with JPMorgan lending less money."

Landesman was referring toJPMorgan's earnings report on Wednesdayshowing a downdraft in consumer lending.

A little more insight into the tech industry could come with Google's earnings release after-the-bell, said J.J. Kinahan, chief derivatives strategist at TD Ameritrade. (Read More: All Eyes on New CEO as Google Reports Earnings)

"Google is not a pure tech play so to speak, but it's the first major component of that industry," he said. "People are looking for something to point to."

Trading could also be affected by the monthly expiration of futures and options on Friday, he said.

"You’ll see some interesting trades today," Kinahan said, including "things that don't make sense."

Oil prices were mixed, moving in relation to a weaker dollar , which fell against a stronger yen. London Brent crude fell 0.42 percent to close at $122.36, while U.S. light crude rose 0.93 percent to close at $108.11. Meanwhile, Gold prices soared more than 1 percent to close at $1,471.70 an ounce.

However, the recent surge in oil prices is not a reason that will spark the Fed to raise interst rates, said Minneapolis Fed President Narayana Kocherlakota and Fed Board Governor Elizabeth Duke.

Financials were among the weakest sectors, a day after JPMorgan released strong earnings that nonetheless disappointed once investors looked more closely at the results. However, some analysts were still positive on the share as at least three brokerages raised their price targets on the firm. Bankof America is scheduled to report earnings before the market opens on Friday.

Meanwhile, Goldman Sachs fell after a U.S. Senate report on Wall Street's role in the financial crisis published Wednesday accused of misleading clients and manipulating marketsin mortgage-bond deals leading up to the financial crisis. Deutsche Bank , which was also cited in the report, fell too.

Why Buy Equities Now?
With debt in Europe escalating, the end of QE-2 nearing, and an uncertain unemployment picture, is there any reason to buy stocks now? Bill Stone, PNC Wealth Management, and David Lefkowitz, UBS Wealth Management, lay out a strategy for investors.

The SEChas also launched an investigation into whether a number of banks including Bank of America, UBS and Citigroup colluded to manipulate Libor rates according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

The tech sector suffered as several analysts cited the implications of weak personal computer sales. Among those hit was Microsoft , which skidded after Morgan Stanley noted declining demand for personal computers could hurt the computer firm. Roth Capital, meanwhile, downgraded Intel to "neutral" citing a slowdown in PC sales as well as the company's lack of progress with smartphones and tablets.

In addition, Dell and Hewlett-Packard also slipped after Gartner and IDC both reported that PC sales unexpectedly fell in the first quarter.

And Research In Motion declined more than 3 percent following poor reveiws for its new BlackBerry Playbook tablet, scheduled to debut next week.

First Solar sank after the president of operations at the thin film solar maker was leaving at the end of April. Short-seller Jim Chanos, president of Kynokos Associates, said on CNBC that the company was "problematic" and was experiencing a large amount of insider selling.

Ford shares fell after the automaker expanded a recall of their F-150 pickup trucks because of a possible short circuit that could cause airbags to unexpectedly deploy.

Hasbro shed almost 2 percent after the toy maker's earnings tumbled 71 percent.

In IPO news, car-rental firm Zipcar surged over 50 percent on Thursday, its first day of trading, while the largest franchisee of McDonald's, Arcos Dorados , soared more than 25 percent on its first day.

Dunkin' Donuts is planning an IPO in this summer, according to sources, CNBC reported on Thursday. The deal is expected to raise $500 million to $700 million. The company said it would not comment on rumors and speculation.

Toys R Us is also in focus following a Reuters report the toy retailer is targeting an IPO in July.

Treasury prices gained after the government auctioned $13 billion of 30-year bonds, which had a high yield of 4.531 percent and bid-to-cover of 2.83.

In the day's economic news, new claims for unemployment benefits unexpectedly rose last week, bouncing back above the key 400,000 level, while core producer prices clumbed faster than expected in March, according to reports from the Labor Department.

Investors are also waiting for President Obama’s plan to reduce the U.S. budget deficit. The President outlined his vision for reducing the deficit by a total of $4 trillion over the next 12 years by finding savings in the defense budget, healthcare spending, domestic expenditure, and reform of the federal tax system.

European shares closed lower amid worries about higher global inflation, while concerns about Greek debt hit banking stocks.

On Tap This Week:

THURSDAY: Lacker speaks; earnings from Google after-the-bell.
FRIDAY: CPI, Empire state manufacturing survey, Treasury international capital, industrial production, consumer sentiment, credit card default rates reported; Evans speaks, Hoenig speaks, G24/International Monetary Affairs meeting; Earnings from Bank of America and Mattel before-the-bell.

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