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Stocks Hovering Near Record Intraday Highs - U.S. Commentary

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Stocks are seeing considerable strength in mid-day trading on Friday, extending the strong upward move seen in the previous session. With the continued advance, the major averages have once again risen to new record intraday highs.

Currently, the major averages are hovering firmly in positive territory. The Dow is up 204.44 points or 0.8 percent at 25,779.17, the Nasdaq is up 40.60 points or 0.6 percent at 7,252.38 and the S&P 500 is up 14.55 points or 0.5 percent at 2,782.11.

The continued strength on Wall Street partly reflects optimism about the earnings season after financial giants JPMorgan Chase (JPM), BlackRock (BLK) and Wells Fargo (WFC) all reported better than expected quarterly results.

JPMorgan and BlackRock have moved notably higher after reporting results that beat estimates, although Wells Fargo is seeing modest weakness.

Traders are also digesting some closely watched economic data, including a report from the Commerce Department showing retail sales rose in line with economist estimates in the month of December.

The Commerce Department said retail sales increased by 0.4 percent in December after climbing by an upwardly revised 0.9 percent in November.

Economists had expected retail sales to rise by 0.4 percent compared to the 0.8 percent increase originally reported for the previous month.

Excluding auto sales, retail sales still rose by 0.4 percent in December after jumping by 1.3 percent in November. The increase in ex-auto sales also matched estimates.

A separate report from the Labor Department showed consumer prices rose by less than expected in December, reflecting a sharp pullback in energy prices.

The Labor Department said its consumer price index inched up by 0.1 percent in December after climbing by 0.4 in November. Economists had expected prices to rise by 0.2 percent.

Meanwhile, the report said core consumer prices, which exclude food and energy prices, increased by 0.3 percent in December after ticking up by 0.1 percent in November. Core prices had been expected to rise by 0.2 percent.

Sector News

Gold stocks continue to see considerable strength in mid-day trading, with the NYSE Arca Gold Bugs Index climbing by 1.5 percent.

The strength among gold stocks comes amid an increase by the price of the precious metal, with gold for February delivery rising $9.10 to $1,331.60 an ounce.

Significant strength also remains visible among retail stocks, as reflected by the 1.4 percent advance by the Dow Jones Retail Index. The index has reached a record intraday high.

The gains by retail stocks come following the retail sales data as well as a report from the National Retail Federation showing stronger than expected holiday sales growth.

Airline stocks are also extending a recent rally, moving notably higher along with software, biotechnology, and railroad stocks.

Other Markets

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region moved mostly higher on Friday. China's Shanghai Composite Index inched up by 0.1 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index advanced by 0.9 percent. However, Japan's Nikkei 225 Index bucked the uptrend and dipped by 0.2 percent.

The major European markets also moved to the upside on the day. While the French CAC 40 Index climbed by 0.5 percent, the German DAX Index and the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index rose by 0.3 percent and 0.2 percent, respectively.

In the bond market, treasuries have climbed off their worst levels but are seeing continued weakness. As a result, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note, which moves opposite of its price, is up by 3.4 basis points at 2.565 percent.

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