The Dow tipped into negative territory as traders jockeyed for postions on this quadruple-witching Friday. But techs rallied.
Today is the once-a-quarter event known as "quadruple witching," which is the simultaneous expiration of stock index futures, stock index options, stock futures, and stock options. It happens on the third Friday of the third month of every quarter.
Historically, major averages have closed up two out of three timeson quadruple witching days.
Today's advance builds on Thursday's gains, when stocks snapped a three-day losing streakas a trio of encouraging economic reports — the Philadelphia Federal Reserve's manufacturing report, leading indicators and weekly jobless claims — fueled recovery hopes.
Adding to the optimism, the International Monetary Fund said it may raise its 2010 growth forecast for the global economy in the coming weeks.
The market was also buzzing about the arrest of Allen Stanford in connection with his alleged $8 billion Ponzi scheme involving certificates of deposit. Stanford has steadfastly denied any wrongdoing.
Techs shot out of the gate, continuing their recent pendulum pattern, one day up, the next, down. The big news out of the sector today was the debut of Apple's new iPhone and several analyst upgrades in the smartphone sector, though BlackBerry maker Research In Motion didn't join in the rally.
American depositary shares of Research In Motion slipped as investors focused on the Canadian company's disappointing outlook over their earnings beat and a couple of analyst upgrades.
Three brokerage firms raised their price targets on RIM stock. Raymond James raised its price target to $90 from $86 with an "outperform" rating. Deutsche Bank also raised its price target — to $67 from $56 — with a "hold" rating. BMO raised its price target to $90 fom $82 with an "outperform" rating.
Shares of Apple rose as the Apple 3GS hit store shelves today. The phone has twice the storage of previous phones — 16 gigabytes — for the same price point, $200. A 32-gigabyte model is priced at $300. It also has a lot of features that iPhone users were craving, including a better camera, the ability to record video and voice dialing. Read David Pogue's review.
>> Smaller Crowds Greet Apple's iPhone
Elsewhere in tech land, Microsoft shares rose after Goldman Sachs added the stock to its "conviction buy" list, saying revenue drivers, cost controls and the company's cash cushion have set the mood for the company to beat earnings expectations.
Banks were mostly higher but there were a few weak spots after the sector led yesterday's rebound.
Regions Financial rose after the bank said it's almost done raising the $2.5 billoin in capital required by the government's stress test. It's achieved the goal through stock offerings and selling some of its stock, including shares of Visa.
JPMorgan advanced after Robert W. Baird analysts said the stock was an attractive buy due to its valuation and its potential for rapid earnings growth compared to its peer.
Citigroup gained after Rochedale Securities analyst Dick Bove started coverage of the stock with a "buy" rating, saying the bank was simply too big for the government to allow it to fail.
But Wells Fargo , USBancorp , Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley were all lower.
E*Trade skidded more than 10 percent after a disappointing offering of 435 million shares at $1.10 a share, far less than the stock's closing price on Thursday.
Carnival Cruise Lines rallied as at least two analysts upgraded the stock after the cruise-ship operator beat earnings expectations.