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Stocks Holding On To Strong Gains In The Mid-Afternoon - U.S. Commentary

4/2/2012 2:07 PM ET

After turning higher over the course of morning trading on Monday, stocks continue to perform well in the mid-afternoon. The major averages have climbed well off their early lows and are hovering firmly in positive territory.

The markets have benefited from a positive reaction to a report from the Institute for Supply Management showing a continued expansion in U.S. manufacturing activity in the month of March.

The ISM said its index of activity in the manufacturing sector climbed to 53.4 in March from 52.4 in February, with a reading above 50 indicating growth in the sector. Economists had expected the index to edge up to a reading of 53.0.

The upbeat U.S. data overshadowed some disappointing European data, which had helped to drag stocks lower in early trading.

Steel stocks have moved sharply higher on the heels of the ISM report, driving the NYSE Arca Steel Index up by 2.6 percent. Mechel (MTL) and A.M. Castle (CAS) are turning in two of the sector's best performances on the day.

Considerable strength has also emerged among railroad stocks, as reflected by the 2.2 percent gain being posted by the Dow Jones Railroads Index. Gold, healthcare, and energy stocks are also seeing significant strength, moving higher along with most of the major sectors.

The major averages have moved roughly sideways in recent trading, holding near their highs for the session. The Dow is up 71.07 points or 0.5 percent at 13,283.11, the Nasdaq is up 27.41 points or 0.9 percent at 3,118.97 and the S&P 500 is up 12.06 points or 0.9 percent at 1,420.55.

by RTT Staff Writer

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