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Halftime Report: Stocks Making Run For 7 Weeks Of Wins

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HALFTIME REPORT: MAKING A RUN AT 7 STRAIGHT WEEKS

Around lunchtime the bulls had seized control of the market with the S&P 500 charging higher. Still, stocks needs to gain another 1% to close positive for the week.

Energy shares seem to be driving the bulls Friday with oil prices rising for the third straight day despite a huge surplus and weak global demand. With concern rising that the U.S. bank bailout will spark a wave of inflation, money is flowing into hard assets like oil.

Also better-than-expected results from companies, including American Express and Ford sparked investor optimism and reassuring economic data boosted hopes the recession is showing signs of abating.

Strategy Session with the Fast Money Traders

Energy, tech, financials and consumer discretionary are all driving higher on Friday, explains Oppenheimer strategist Carter Worth. The question is which ones are getting a little ahead of themselves. I’d stay with financials, energy and tech. But consumer discretionary looks overdone especially the restaurant stocks. I’d let that go.

The Vix has dropped into the mid-30’s, adds Brian Stutland of Stutland Equities. There’s less uncertainty in the market and as a result I think we could be seeing money flowing into long term investment vehicles.

It seems to me that stocks are levitating ahead of stress test results, counters Karen Finerman, president of Metropolitan Capital and Fast Money contributor. And that could be a risky position into the week-end. I’m taking some money off the table.

I also think the market has gotten ahead of itself, muses Deutsche economist Joe LaVorgna.

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FINANCIALS GAINING AHEAD OF SOME STRESS TEST DETAILS AT 2PM

Investors appear confident that the banking sector will sail through the government stress tests that Finerman referenced above. Shares of the Financial Select Sector SPDR were higher mid-day, ahead of the 2pm release of the testing methodology.

Although the official results are not expected to be made public for a week yet, the test methodology will come out today and could provide clues about which banks may be in trouble.

Also, today regulators will privately begin telling the nation's 19 largest financial institutions how well they performed.

The feds are hoping for a slow-motion rollout, to blunt market reaction if the tests reveal some banks need more money to survive. However, market mavens think the results will leak out long before next Friday.

I’m not sure how many details we’re going to get today, muses Joe LaVorgna. And keep in mind, banks undergo stress tests all the time.

In this kind of environment, I see upside for banks that are cream of the crop, adds Karen Finerman. If competitors need to raise capital it should create opportunity for best of breed names such as JPMorgan.

Read more

> Bank Stress Tests Enter Critical Phase

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TOPPING THE TAPE: NASDAQ UP

The Nasdaq outpaced the other major indexes Friday, gaining more than 2 percent by mid-day with Microsoft providing a strong tailwind.

Investors turned bullish on tech after the software giant reported its quarterly results. Microsoft said profits fell, but investors were more interested in its successful efforts to cut costs and they also liked hearing that the release of its Windows 7 operating system was on track. Around lunchtime shares of Microsoft were up 8.2 percent.

It’s nice to see Microsoft up, says Karen Finerman. But they’re higher on what I consider a weak report. I’m cashing out.

I’m seeing bullish options action in the QQQQ’s, explains Pete Najarian, with big investors gobbling up June 36 calls and the July 40 calls. It seems to me tech is the enviable sector. They have low inventories and cash on the balance sheet.

Tech leads the market in principle, explains Carter Worth, and semi’s lead tech. It happened in the '02 – '03 market and I think we’re seeing it again. In this space I’d stay with the relative outperformers.


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