Stocks Climb As Street Looks Ahead to Economic Data

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U.S. stocks rose Monday as investors bet that falling crude oil prices would underpin corporate earnings growth, sending shares of industrial bellwethers such as General Electric Co. (GE) higher.

The Dow Jones industrial average was up 23.45 points, or 0.19 percent, to close at 12,131.88. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was up 3.52 points, or 0.25 percent, to finish at 1,384.42. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 16.66 points, or 0.70 percent, to close at 2,406.38, after earlier climbing as high as 2,408.91.

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But nervousness tied to the release of some of this week's economic reports, which could determine the course of interest rates, limited a broader market advance.

"How PPI and later on CPI play out, away from the headline number, you're going to have some risk that the market has to reevaluate its Fed stance," said John Caldwell, chief investment strategist at McDonald Financial Group, part of KeyCorp, in Cleveland, Ohio.

"The drop in energy prices is still going to have a positive impact, but the inflation data could be the fly in the ointment."

Even so, positive broker comments on chip maker Intel Corp. (INTC) helped spur demand for technology shares, driving the Nasdaq up to its highest level in nearly 6 years during the session.

GE shares advanced 0.5 percent, or 19 cents, to $35.36 on the New York Stock Exchange. GE's stock also benefited from positive broker comments.

Shares of another diversified manufacturer, Honeywell International Inc. (HON), gained 1 percent, or 43 cents, to $42.97 on the NYSE.

Citigroup added GE to its recommended list, along with chip maker Intel. Both stocks, along with the shares of American International Group Inc. (AIG), were among the top positive influences on both the blue-chip Dow average and the the broad S&P 500.

Shares of AIG, the world's largest insurer by market value, were the top positive influence on both the Dow and the S&P 500. AIG gained 1.5 percent, or $1.01, to $70.65 on the NYSE. The stock extended gains triggered by last Thursday's stronger-than-expected profit report.

Intel shares rose 2 percent, or 42 cents, to $21 on Nasdaq, making it one of the biggest boosters of both the Nasdaq 100 and the blue-chip Dow average. Intel also helped bolster the S&P 500.

In a speech, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas President Richard Fisher said that U.S. employers were witnessing a clear shortage of certain types of workers, and he warned that this was pushing up some wages.

On Tuesday, the Labor Department releases its October report on the Producer Price Index. That will be followed on Wednesday by the release of the minutes from the most recent meeting of the Federal Reserve's Federal Open Market Committee on Oct. 24-25, when it held its benchmark federal funds rate steady at 5.25 percent for the third consecutive time.

On Thursday, the Labor Department will release the October Consumer Price Index.

Earnings from some top retailers are expected Tuesday, including No. 1 home improvement chain Home Depot Inc. (HD) and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT), the world's biggest retailer.

Home Depot shares slipped 0.7 percent, or 24 cents, to $36.40, while Wal-Mart shares dropped 0.3 percent, or 15 cents, to $46.32, both in NYSE trading..

The biggest drag on the S&P 500 was a drop of nearly 2 percent in the shares of Pepsico (PEP) Inc. after "Mad Money" show host and stock commentator Jim Cramer said on CNBC television that the battle against fatty foods could be a headwind for the company's snacks business. PepsiCo's stock fell $1.14 to $61.41 on the NYSE.

U.S. crude oil for December delivery extended Friday's 2.6 percent drop on expectations that mild U.S. Northeast weather would slow heating demand. It ended down $1.01 at $58.58 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Trading was moderate on the NYSE, where about 1.42 billion shares changed hands, below last year's average daily volume of 1.61 billion. On the Nasdaq, about 1.78 billion shares traded, slightly below last year's average daily volume of 1.80 billion.

Advancers outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by a ratio of 6 to 5, while on the Nasdaq, about three stocks rose for every two that fell.

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