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After a shaky start to the session, the major market indexes have managed to collect modest gains at midday. The day's slate of economic data was generally positive, with traders considering a steeper-than-forecast decline in jobless claims, and stronger-than-expected readings from both the Empire State and Philadelphia Fed manufacturing indexes. However, weakness in energy stocks is offsetting some of the data-driven enthusiasm, with crude futures retreating after Reuters reported that President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron are pondering the release of emergency oil supplies. Against this cautious backdrop, though, stocks have still managed to tag another round of multi-year peaks.
At last look, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA - 13,238.23) is up 44.1 points, or 0.3%, after topping out at a fresh four-year best of 13,239.63. The S&P 500 Index (SPX - 1,401.47) has gained 7.2 points, or 0.5%, and is hovering north of 1,400 for the first time since June 2008. Faring the best this afternoon is the Nasdaq Composite (COMP - 3,057.71), up roughly 17 points, or 0.6%. The SPX peaked at 1,402.35 earlier, while the COMP's session high stands at 3,059.81.
Checking in on Dow components, Bank of America (BAC - 9.14) is spearheading the rally once again, up 3.4% to pace the 22 advancing blue chips. On the flip side, Cisco Systems (CSCO - 19.94) is down 1.3% to lead the eight laggards into the red. Earlier, CSCO announced its intent to acquire NDS Group for roughly $5 billion, including debt.
The CBOE Market Volatility Index (VIX - 15.09) staged another intraday breach of the 15 level, bottoming at 14.58 just a few minutes ago. Currently, the VIX is down 1.4%.
Among equities in focus, Northern Trust (NTRS - 47.39) has advanced 3.2% after hiking its dividend and announcing a stock buyback. Meanwhile, AMC Networks (AMCX - 43.59) has given up 5.3% in the wake of a disappointing earnings report. In brokerage news, Advanced Micro Devices (AMD - 8.23) has rallied 6.1% on a Jefferies upgrade to "buy," and fellow tech issue Veeco Instruments (VECO - 33.53) has soared 11.8% after a similarly bullish endorsement from Deutsche Bank. Over in the options pits, call players are betting on Akamai Technologies (AKAM - 37.25) to keep climbing the charts, with the stock up 1.6% at midday.