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A Market Melt-Up

The S&P 500 futures is up a couple points again today. Despite the gripes about low volume and low volatility, the market is melting up: the S&P 500 has been up 11 of the last 13 trading sessions.

Producer Price Index (PPI) for February, down 0.6 percent, was lighter than the drop of 0.2 percent expected, but core-PPI, up 0.1 percent, was in line with expectations. Much of the decline was due to lower energy prices, but they have since rebounded.

Elsewhere:

1) Blockbuster drags out the dreaded "substantial doubt about our ability to continue as a going concern" clause. BBI down 33 percent (it’s a $0.26 cent stock, bear in mind) pre-open as it said it will probably file for bankruptcy if it is unable to address its debt load, due in part to "increasingly competitive industry conditions."

2) More financial firms are lining up to repay their TARP funds:

Discover Financial Q1 results missed estimates and announced it will raise $350 million via a debt offering to repay its TARP money. DFS received $1.2 billion in TARP money.

Hartford Financial (HIG) is up 2 percent after announcing it plans to raise $2.4 billion to help repay its TARP money. The insurance company will raise the capital via offerings off common and preferred stock (nearly $2 billion) as well as issuance of senior notes ($425 million).

HIG received $3.4 billion in TARP money.

That still leaves several larger regional banks (Regions Financial, SunTrust, Fifth Third, and KeyCorp) as the biggest holders of TARP funds.

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3) Wellpoint reaffirmed its 2010 earnings guidance of "at least $6.00" (vs. $6.11 consensus) on slightly higher than expected revenues ($59 billion vs. $58.2 billion consensus). In its SEC filing, the health insurer also noted that it expects to lose about 400,000 members this year compared to last year's levels as unemployment remains high.

4) Sign of the times. Late last month, tax preparer H&R Block warned that 2010 guidance wouldn't be met due to a drop-off in the number of returns it's processing at its offices nationwide. The reason given - a greater number of potential customers were likely resorting to "do-it-yourself" tax preparation methods.

This morning, Intuit , the maker of the popular TurboTax software program, showed proof of that, as sales of its tax prep software are up 10 percent from last year's tax season-to-date. This was primarily helped by a 20 percent jump in web filings (where a basic return can be done for FREE).

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