Stocks Remain Higher; Amex Rises, Cisco Falls


Stocks gained Monday as the S&P 500 broke through the top-end of a trading range ahead of a town hall session with President Barack Obama centered on the U.S. economy.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose nearly 100 points. Most Dow components were higher, led by American Express , Alcoa , and Home Depot .Cisco fell.

The S&P 500rose more than 10 points Monday and traded at 1,137, breaking through the crucial 1,130 barrier that has capped the index's highs since mid-May.

The Nasdaq also rose. The CBOE Volatility Index, widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, rose above 21.

The reported this morning that the recession ended in June 2009, and was the longest post-war downturn.

The 10 key S&P sectors were higher, led by consumer discretionary, energy and industrials.

Stocks struggled for direction most of Friday, but managed to close higher for the day and the week. The Dow was up 5.9 percent in September as of Friday, while the S&P 500 was up 7.3 percent and the Nasdaq was up 9.5 percent.

The market may be moving higher Monday as investors anticipate President Barack Obama will give more evidence he is moving to the center during his town hall session on CNBC, said Brian Gendreau, market strategist at Financial Network. The President may be reacting to polls pointing to Republicans gaining seats in the mid-term elections, he said.

"If he can appear to be more centrist, Democrats may not lose so many seats," Gendreau said.

He also noted that in the post-war period, the stock market has risen an average of 1.1 percent in the 90 days before a mid-term election, and an average of 3.1 percent in the 30 days before an election. Strikingly, stocks tend to rise an average of 9.7 percent in the 90 days after a midterm, Gendreau said.

Investors may see that momentum starting to build, and don't want to miss out on the rally, he said.

On the economic front, President Obama was discussing the state of the economy and answering questions during a live town hall event that began at noon on CNBC called Investing in America (Click for more).

Shares of tech analytics and data warehouse company Netezza soared in premarket trading after IBM announced it would buy the companyfor $1.78 billion, or $27 a share.

On the earnings front, shares of home builder Lennar rose after the homebuilder posted quarterly profits that were better than expected, thanks to orders placed before the homebuyer tax credit expired. Shares of many other homebuilders also rose,  including Beazer Homes , Hovananian Enterprises and M/I Homes.

And shares of Discover Financial rose after the credit-card company reported third quarter net income of $261 million or 47 cents a share, down from $577 million in the same period a year earlier, when Discover recieved $287 million in after-tax dollars related to an antitrust settlement with Visa/MasterCard.

Steel stocks were mixed after Goldman Sachs upgraded Freeport McMoRan to "buy" from "neutral," because of its copper business, while downgrading US Steel and Nucor Corporation to "neutral" from "buy," as steel prices remain range bound," Goldman said.

Paper stocks tumbled after BMO cut the paper and forest products sector to "market perform," from "outperform," saying companies because of a possible double-dip in the housing market. The company did say, however, that the global packaging market is strong and recommended International Paper, and Packaging Corp. of America, although shares of both companies sank.

The telecom sector got a boost from Credit Suisse, which rasied the sector to "overweight" and said telecomo should trade at a premium to the S&P 500 for up to five years. AT&T, which Credit Suisse rated "outperform" from "neutral," rose on the news.

Meanwhile Dow component Verizon slipped after news the telecom company named Lowell McAdam, now chief executive of Verizon Wireless, as its president and chief operating officer, Reuters said. McAdam takes up the new position Oct. 1.

Shares of electronics retailer Best Buy rose after Oppenheimer raised its rating on the company to "outperform" from "perform" and increased its price target to $38 a share from $45, saying the company would benefit during the holidays from new products.

Shares of BP rose after the oil major confirmed it capped the leaking oil well in the Gulf of Mexico. BP also said compensation claims related to the spill had jumped since it passed control to an independent administrator.

Also on the economic front, A monthly survey by the National Association of Home Builders and Wells Fargo indicated sentiment among U.S. home builders was unchanged in September. The survey, which measures builder perceptions of current single-family home sales and sales expectations for the next six months, was at 13 in September, the same as August. Any number below 50 means sentiment is poor.

And the Federal Open Market Committee will hold a one-day policy meeting Tuesday with market watchers hoping to gain clues on whether the central bank will introduce another round of quantitative easing.

On Tap for Next Week:

MONDAY: Nike shareholder meeting; Oracle Open World
TUESDAY: Housing starts; FOMC Announcement; Clinton Global Initiative; MasterCard annual meeting; Earnings from AutoZone and Adobe
WEDNESDAY: Weekly mortgage applications; oil inventories; Wall Street & Washington Conference; Earnings from General Mills and Bed Bath & Beyond
THURSDAY: Weekly jobless claims; existing home sales; leading indicators; Chicago Fed Pres Evans speaks; Volcker speaks; FCC meeting on opening up new airwaves; Earnings from Rite Aid and Nike
FRIDAY: Durable goods orders; New home sales; Richmond Fed President Lacker speaks; Philadelphia Fed President Plosser speaks; NY Film Festival; Earnings from KB Home

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