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Coming Week: Ready for Takeoff

After the market ended 2005 sourly, it began the new year with trumpets sounding. Traders in the coming week will look to add to those high notes.

Stocks vaulted last week, with the S&P 500 climbing 2.7% to a four-and-a-half year high. Even with the mild returns logged in the U.S. equity markets last year, traders are excited about finally crossing a big technical milestone. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, which rose 2.2% on the week, ended at its best level since mid-2001, while the Nasdaq Composite climbed 4.5%, also reaching a four-and-a-half-year high.

"If you break out tech stocks, the broader stock market hasn't done much of anything since 1998, so I think we're getting ready for a move here," says Bill Rhodes, chief investment strategist with Rhodes Analytics. "It doesn't look like interest rates are going a lot higher."

Interest rates appear to be the key for traders, judging by the market's reaction to Friday's lackluster jobs report. The government said the economy added 108,000 jobs in December, about half of what Wall Street was expecting. November's figure was revised up to a robust 305,000 from the previously reported 215,000, but traders latched on to December's tepid pace as a sign the Fed could ease up on monetary policy soon.

On Friday, the S&P 500 rose 12 points, or 0.9%, to 1285.45; the Dow closed up 77 points, or 0.7%, to 10,959; and the Nasdaq surged 29 points, or 1.3%, to 2306.

"A typical economic recovery will see job growth north of 220,000 new jobs a month," says Gail Dudack, chief investment strategist with SunGard Institutional Brokerage. "And we've had very few months above that level. So, this job market looks stable, but not robust, and that is what will put restraint on the Fed in 2006."
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