Wall St. shakes off negative news

In another display of its immunity to bad news, Wall Street moved higher today, despite the prospect of disappointing sales at Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Federated Department Stores Inc.

Analysts credit the market's resilience to investors' rising confidence that earnings and the economy are strengthening.

That optimism has been evident in nearly two months of rallies, with the strongest gains seen in the long-battered tech sector.

The Dow Jones industrial average closed up 44.56, or 0.5 percent, at 8,849.40. The Dow added to last's week gain of 2.6 percent -- its seventh weekly win.

The broader market also advanced.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 2.32, or 0.3 percent, to 932.87, after last week's 2.3 percent gain.

The tech-laden Nasdaq composite index climbed 13.16, or 0.9 percent, to 1,481.90, having jumped 4.1 percent last week.

Analysts are impressed by the market's momentum but also expect it to pull back, perhaps ahead of Thanksgiving, when the market is closed.

"The market has been on a winning streak," said Alan Ackerman, executive vice president of Fahnestock & Co. in New York. "Perhaps the move has been too much, too soon.

"With a holiday-shortened week ahead, many traders are being very nimble, moving quickly in and out of positions," he said.

Trading was choppy for much of today, with prices occasionally turning negative. Still, the market continued to shake off bad news, this time from Wal-Mart and Federated.

Last week, the market edged higher in the face of a drop in housing construction and a profit warning from Hope Depot Inc.

Wal-Mart inched up 6 cents, to $53.82, recovering from earlier losses when it reiterated that same-store sales, those at outlets open at least a year, for November will rise at the low end of its 2 percent to 4 percent range.

The retailer, based in Bentonville, Ark., also said it could not forecast sales for December.

But Federated fell 65 cents, to $31.71, after saying November and December same-store sales will range from unchanged to 2.5 percent lower.

Investors have been sensitive to negative news involving consumers, whose spending accounts for two-third of the nation's economy, but they've kept buying on the market's own growing momentum.

Technology managed to build on recent gains, despite brokerage downgrades of big name companies like Intel Corp. and Cisco Systems Inc.

The tech advance indicates that investors overall are feeling better about the stock market and are willing to take chances on the sector that burned them the most in the bear market.

"It is not as if this is a brave new world in technology," said Bryan Piskorowski, market commentator for Prudential Securities Inc., also in New York. "We haven't seen a pick-up in capital spending. But you get the sense that the market is pricing in the worst being over."

Intel rose 43 cents, to $20.48, despite the fact that Sanford Bernstein & Co. lowered its rating on the chip maker to "market perform" from "outperform."

Cisco Systems was unchanged, at $14.89, after UBS Warburg & Co. downgraded the networker to "hold" from "buy."

Advanced Micro Devices Inc. rose $1.09, to $7.95, after JMP Securities Inc. upgraded the chip maker to "market outperform" from "market perform."

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners 4 to 3 on the New York Stock Exchange. Trading volume totaled 1.55 billion shares, below 1.62 billion on Friday.

The Russell 2000 index, the barometer of smaller-company stocks, rose 4.84, or 1.2 percent, to 404.84.

Overseas, Japan's Nikkei stock average finished up 2 percent.

In afternoon trading in Europe, France's CAC-40 declined 0.3 percent, Britain's FTSE 100 fell 1.3 percent and Germany's DAX index lost 0.7 percent.

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