Stocks Close Higher as Dow Ekes out Gain

Stocks edged higher at the close, with the Dow climbing back above 11,000 after a late session drop, amid thin holiday trading and ahead of a big week of earnings announcements.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 3.86 points, or 0.04 percent, to close at 11,010.34. On Friday, the Dow closed above the psychologically important 11,000-levelfor the first time since early May.

Boeing , JPMorgan ,and Verizon led the blue-chip index, while DuPont and 3M fell.

The S&P 500 rose 0.17 points, or 0.01 percent, to 1,165.32, while the Nasdaq rose 0.42 points, or 0.02 percent, to 2,402.33. The CBOE Volatility Index, widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, fell about 8.5 percent, below 20.

While "peculiar," Ryan Detrick, senior technical strategist at Schaeffer Investment Research, said the declining level of the VIX is consistent with his view that the index is moving toward 15, the level it was at in April.

That's also a sign stocks are poised to move to their April highs, Detrick said.

"This market is probably working its way higher, to its April peak, and probably higher before the end of the year," he said.

Allof the key S&P 500 sectors, most of which had been higher all day, fell. Telecom, consumer staples and consumer discretionary stocks led the decline.

Traders were also catching their breath ahead of a handful of major earnings due out later this week from Intel, JPMorgan, Google, AMD , and GE, among others.

On the tech front, Microsoft released a line of smartphonesrunning its Windows software on Monday, to compete against Apple's iPhone and Google's Android system. Meanwhile, Jefferies raised its price target on Google to $680 from $660.

Broadcom shares climbed after Goldman Sachs added the chipmaker to its conviction "buy" list.

Financials were mixed despite an upbeat review of the sector by Citigroup, which said banks should meet or exceed third quarter estimates. Specifically, Citi said Wells Fargo and JPMorgan will outperform, and the brokerage raised its price target for Fifth Third Bancorp to $15 from $14. Citi, however, cut its price target for Bank of America to $20 from $22 and for PNC from $62 to $75.

JPMorgan also got a boost after a reportin a Barron's blog that the bank plans to raise its dividend in the first quarter. Eventually the bank expects the dividend to be about 30 percent to 40 percent of earnings.

Assurant was slightly lower after it was downgraded by two brokerages.

On the energy front, China's CNOOC agreed on Sunday to a one-third stake in Chesapeake Energy's Eagle Ford shale property in South Texas for $1.08 billion in cash.

Ascent Solar Technologies soared more than 30 percent after the solar company said it was the first to have its specialized thin-film solar module to receive full IEC certification, allowing the ocmpany to use the product in building applications for commercial, industrial and residential rooftops.

Solar-energy stocks rose after LDK Solar raised its revenue and shipment outlook for the third quarter. Suntech Power Holdings , Evergreen Solar and First Solar were all higher.

Oil prices slipped slightly to trade below $83 a barrelwhile gold advanced toward $1,350 an ounceas the dollar continued its decline against other major currencies.

Meanwhile, Airgas shares were higher after the distributor of industrial, medical and specialty gases said it will appeal a Delaware court rulingthat handed it a setback in its bid to fight $5.5 billion hostile takeover bid by Air Products & Chemicals .

Wynn Resorts soared to the top of the S&P 500 after S&P Equity upgraded the casino operator to "buy" from "hold" and raised the price target to $115 a share from $90 a share. Rivals Las Vegas Sands and Lakes Entertainment were also higher.

Potash shares were higher after news two teams are working on bidsfor the Canadian fertilizer company. Shares of BHP Billiton , which has offered $130 a share for Potash, were slightly lower.

Eli Lilly shares were mostly flat after the drugmaker pulled plans to have Alimta, an established drug, approved as a treatment for head and neck cancer after the medicine failed in a late-stage clinical trial.

Gymboree soared after the children's retailer agreed to a $1.8 billion buyout from affiliates of asset management firm Bain Capital. Rival Children's Place also rose after the news.

New York Times jumped more than 8 percent, after some analysts said the stock has been a laggard, making it one of the biggest gainers so far on the NYSE.

Volume on the consolidated New York Stock Exchange was light, with only 3 billion shares trading. On the NYSE floor, 826 million shares changed hands, with advancers outpacing decliners about 4 to 3.

Most participants surveyed by CNBC over the weekend believe the Federal Reserve will buy assets to boost the economy, in a strategy known as quantitative easing. Nearly 93 percent of the 70 respondents, including economists, fund managers and traders, believe the Fed will buy assets, up from 69 percent in a survey published two weeks earlier.

In other economic news, Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank President Thomas Hoenig said higher capital standards were needed to ensure the banking industry was able to provide stable growth in the future.

And tougher rules on bank dividends were needed to stop excessive payouts during times of financial stress, Boston Federal Reserve Bank President Eric Rosengren said.

U.S. professors Peter Diamond and Dale Mortensen and British-Cypriot citizen Christopher Pissarides won the Nobel Prize for economicsfor their work analyzing the process of buying and selling and unemployment.

The U.S. Treasurys market is closed for the Columbus Day holiday.

Coming Up This Week:
TUESDAY: NFIB small biz index; employment trends index; employment optimism index; Kansas City Fed Pres Hoenig speaks; CFTC hearing on high frequency trading and flash crash; 3-year note auction; FOMC meeting minutes; P&G shareholder meeting; Earnings from Intel and CSX
WEDNESDAY: Weekly mortgage applications; import & export prices; 10-year note auction; Richmond Fed Pres Lacker speaks; Earnings from JPMorgan
THURSDAY: International trade; PPI; weekly jobless claims; oil inventories; 30-year bond auction; Minnesota Fed Pres Kocherlakota speaks; OPEC meeting; Earnings from Google and AMD
FRIDAY: Atlanta Fed Pres Lockhart speaks; Bernanke speaks; CPI; retail sales; Empire State mfg survey; consumer sentiment; credit card default rates reported; Earnings from GE and Mattel

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