U.S. stocks opened higher Thursday led by the financials thanks in part to more clarity from the government regarding the stress test to bolster the banking system. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 68 points to 7,339. The S&P 500 rose 8 points to 773. The Nasdaq Composite added 5 points to stand at 1,430. The financials look good. Bank of America is up 11%. The bank may sell more assets they inherited from Merrill to raise capital. JP Morgan is up 10% after indicating they will be profitable in the first quarter. GE is up 5% and American Express is up 3% so the financials within the Dow are performing well. The commodities are rallying particularly oil. Ensco, El Paso, and Rowan are all up over 6% on earnings. In the retail space, Sears, Dean Foods, Sanderson Farms, and Cooper Tires are all higher following earnings. Aeropostale is higher thanks to an upgrade. After the first hour, the Dow rose 100 points. The Nasdaq rose 10 points. Everything looks good except for healthcare. Humana is dropping 12%, Unitedhealth Group is down 11%, and Wellpoint is down 7%. Investors are nervous about the government making more cuts to the insurers. The government's influence on this market is tremendous. Sallie Mae's shares dropped 30% on a new government provision that may limit the companies business. After the first hour, the Dow had a second jolt to the upside thanks to a 4% jump in IBM shares. Big Blue is lifting guidance modestly and saying a lot of positive things. Unfortunately, the IBM euphoria wore off quickly sending the averages lower. The big techs, the big banks, and many commodities are still trading higher. Entering the last hour, all the major averages were in the red. Humana is now down 20%. Sallie Mae is down 36%. Fewer and fewer stocks are in the green. In the last hour, the averages sold off closing near the lows of the day. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 88 points to 7,182. The S&P 500 declined 12 points to 752 while the Nasdaq Composite shed 33 points, or 2.4%, to 1,391.
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