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Blue Chips Find Strength

Updated from 4:13 p.m. EST

Stocks in the U.S. had a sluggish session Thursday as traders weighed mixed economic data, but a spurt of buying late helped the blue-chip averages finish with gains for day.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 44.06 points, or 0.33%, to 13,517.96, after falling more than 100 points earlier in the session.

Dow component Honeywell (HON) led the way with a 5% gain after affirming this year's forecast and predicted that next year's sales would climb 5% to 7%.

Elsewhere, the S&P 500 also overcame weakness to add 1.82 points, or 0.12%, to 1488.41. The Nasdaq Composite stayed in negative territory, slipping 2.65 points, or 0.1%, to 2668.49.

"We'll gladly take any up close, especially after a volatile day like today," said Robert Pavlik, chief investment officer with Oaktree Asset Management. "But I'm still sensing that most participants are watching, waiting from the sidelines, keeping their powder dry while a few institutions or hedge funds push the market around."

Breadth was weak Thursday while volume was strong. On the New York Stock Exchange 3.54 billion shares changed hands, as decliners topped advancers by nearly a 2-to-1 margin. Volume on the Nasdaq reached 2.10 billion shares, with losers outpacing winners 3 to 2.

Banks and securities firms contributed to much of Wall Street's early weakness. Both the NYSE Financial Sector Index and the Amex Securities Broker/Dealer Index declined 1.2%.

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