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Morningstar Indexes: Weekly Market Report

Week ending March 17:  Banks' record earnings propel markets into the green.

Morningstar Indexes, 03/21/2006

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Positive news across the board propped up the markets as the Morningstar US Market Index posted a gain of 2.15% for the week ending March 17. Markets rallied after large investment banks Goldman Sachs GS, Lehman Brothers LEH, and Bear Stearns BSC announced record earnings. Additionally, the consumer price index rose a modest 0.1% in February, easing worries about future interest rate hikes.

The Morningstar style box ended the week on St. Patrick's Day in a sea of green. Gains among the composite style indexes were relatively even across the board. The Morningstar US Core Index edged up 2.22%, boosted by merger and acquisition announcements. Aztar AZR, operator of the Tropicana in Las Vegas, surged 24.8% on news that Pinnacle Entertainment PNK will acquire the casino firm for $2.1 billion. North Fork Bancorp NFB, a member of the Morningstar Large Core Index, gained 14.6% on news that it will be acquired by Capital One Financial COF.

The Morningstar US Value Index was not far behind on the Morningstar Market Barometer, rising 2.21%. Many oil
stocks gained ground, benefiting from the rise in oil prices last week. ExxonMobil XOM, Chevron CVX, ConocoPhillips COP, and Marathon Oil MRO all moved higher.

The Morningstar US Growth Index climbed 2.02%, partially because of favorable performances by tech stocks. Oracle ORCL jumped 5.4% in anticipation of a positive earnings announcement due out this week. Microsoft MSFT gained 1.2% with products such as the Windows Vista operating system and the Office 2007 package coming out soon. The software giant plans on spending $500 million on advertising the new goods.

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