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Stocks rise on Wall Street; Dow edges above 13,000

By Matthew Craft

Associated Press

Published: Friday, Feb. 24 2012 10:30 a.m. MST

Specialist Edward Zelles, left, and trader George Ettinger, right, work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Friday, Feb. 24, 2012. The Dow Jones industrial average is pushing closer to 13,000 at the opening of trading, and other stock indexes are opening higher ahead of reports on new home sales and consumer sentiment.

Richard Drew, Associated Press

NEW YORK — The Dow Jones industrial average pushed above 13,000 in Friday afternoon trading after a measure of consumer sentiment came in stronger than analysts had expected.

The Dow rose 19 points to 13,004 as of 1 p.m. That's an increase of 0.2 percent. Pfizer Inc. is the average's leading stock, up 1.2 percent.

The Dow flitted above 13,000 three times on Tuesday then drifted lower. The average hasn't closed the day above 13,000 since May 19, 2008, four months before the worst days of the financial crisis.

What will it take for the Dow to close above 13,000 and stay there? Mark Lamkin, CEO of Lamkin Wealth Management in Louisville, Ky., said it would require a surprising news event, like a huge merger or an economic report that blows past expectations.

"It needs some type of surprise, a bombshell," Lamkin said. "We've had a pretty good run over the past four months. Now, it's going to take something great to keep it above 13,000."

The two economic reports out Friday didn't make the cut, Lamkin said. The University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Survey index edged up in February, bringing the index to its highest level since February of last year. The Commerce Department reported that sales of new homes dipped slightly in January but the sales figure still topped economists' estimates. It also said sales in the final three months of 2011 were higher than previously reported.

"The numbers are just OK," Lamkin said. "They weren't bad, but they weren't great, either."

In other trading, the S&P 500 index added 5 points to 1,368. Eight of the 10 industries within the index were higher, with utilities and information technology companies leading the way. The Nasdaq composite index rose 13 points, or 0.4 percent, to 2,970.

Oil prices hit a new nine-month high above $108 a barrel with fresh signs that the U.S. economy, the world's largest, is gaining strength. The price of oil has jumped 10 percent this month as tensions mount over Iran's nuclear program.

The euro added a penny against the dollar, hitting $1.346, its highest level since Dec. 8. Greece made a formal offer to creditors to swap their Greek government bonds for new ones, another step toward knocking $142 billion off its debts. The swap is part of a new deal to prevent Greece from defaulting on a debt payment due next month.

Stock indexes have been on a steady climb since November, as European officials redoubled their efforts to contain the region's debt crisis and the European Central Bank has extended cheap loans to troubled banks. The S&P 500 index has gained 8.9 percent to start 2012, better than its long-term annual average gain.

Among stocks making big moves in midday trading:

— Sprint Nextel Corp. lost 4 percent, the biggest drop in the S&P 500. The country's largest cable company, Comcast, filed a suit against the wireless phone company, alleging that the wireless phone company was violating its patents.

— Gap Inc. fell 3.2 percent. The clothing retailer reported a 40 percent plunge in quarterly profit after the market closed Thursday. Gap said higher costs and deep discounts weighed on its revenue.

— Deckers Outdoor Corp. sank 11 percent after the maker of UGG boots and Teva footwear said higher costs will lead to lower profits for the quarter and full year.

— Kenneth Cole Production Inc. soared 19 percent to $15.57 on news that Kenneth Cole is offering to buy the rest of the company. Cole currently holds about 47 percent of the company and has offered would give stockholders $15 per share, a 15 percent premium to the company's Thursday closing price.

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