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Midday Market Update

Stocks Bullish as Dow Hits All-Time High

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U.S. Market    
Stocks jumped at open on strong buying activity, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average rising nearly 150 points by midday, eclipsing its all-time high set in 2007. Investors are paying much attention to whether the index will close the session above that 2007 level. 

Overseas, the eurozone composite purchasing-managers' index for February declined from January's levels but improved from the initial February reading. Although the eurozone could turn in the fourth quarter in a row of contraction, investors were upbeat about the possibility of more announcements of bond buying or interest-rate cuts from the European Central Bank and Bank of England later this week. 

Meanwhile, the Institute for Supply Management's Nonmanufacturing Index increased to 56 last month from January's reading of 55.2. It also countered the expected reading of 55.0, signaling an improvement in activity, with most of the subindexes showing monthly gains. 

Weekly retail sales also increased at national chain stores. 

At midday, the Dow was up by 1.0%, and the S&P 500 was 1.1% higher. The Nasdaq had gained 1.3%. 

Stocks on the Move
 J.C. Penney (JCP) shares fell sharply after its third-largest stockholder,  Vornado Realty Trust (VNO), reportedly sold 10 million shares in the retailer. Vornado had to write down the loss on its J.C. Penney stake last week. At midday, J.C. Penney shares were down by 9.3%, while Vornado shares were 3.1% higher. 

 Walgreen (WAG) second-quarter sales declined 0.1% to $18.63 billion, missing Wall Street estimates of $18.93 billion. Same-store sales for February also fell by 4.3% from the same time last year, though February 2012 also included leap day, which, when excluded, shows only a 0.6% monthly decline. Shares were 2.9% lower at midday. 

 Qualcomm (QCOM) shares were 2.2% higher at midday after the firm announced it is increasing its dividend by 40% to $0.35 per share from $0.25. Qualcomm also authorized a $5 billion stock buyback program to replace its current $4 billion plan. 

 Sears Holdings (SHLD) jumped by more than 7% this morning as chairman and CEO Eddie Lampert purchased 1.24 million shares of the retailer using his own funds for the transaction. 

Foreign Markets
Stocks in Europe jumped following the hopes for more asset purchases or interest-rate cuts, along with the morning rally in the United States. The DAX gained 2.3% and the Paris CAC finished 2.1% higher. The FTSE 100 was 1.4% higher. 

Asian stocks also improved on stimulus hopes, with the Shanghai Composite gaining 2.3% and the Nikkei 225 rising by 0.3%. The Hang Seng was 0.1% higher. 

Kevin O'Shaughnessy does not own (actual or beneficial) shares in any of the securities mentioned above. Find out about Morningstar’s editorial policies.