Market Update: Stocks Float on Green Tide as End to Election Odyssey Nears - TheStreet

President? We don't need no stinkin' president!

We need to buy those big-name technology stocks that we destroyed in November. The

Nasdaq Composite Index rallied past 3,000 for the first time in three weeks, as investors sweep into battered tech names. At last check, though, the Comp had fallen slightly below that level once again.

Sure, Florida's

Supreme Court

spent Friday afternoon riling up George W. Bush's camp by ruling the recount would continue. And when it did, some had the Bush lead down to a slim 150-and-change margin on over 6 million votes cast. This came as a slap to Bush, whose been posing victoriously for the past week or so, working on his transition to the Oval Office. Al Gore's camp, which has spent much of the last month bickering and whining in courtrooms, was understandably elated at the news.

That is, until the

United States Supreme Court

intervened, halting the recount until it heard the appeal from the Bush camp. And starting today, at 11 a.m. ET, the high court heard 45-minutes' worth of argument from both sides. Pundits and other media charlatans have the court deadlocked over the matter. And as usual, markets just keep on trading, hoping that somehow, some way, this messy election will be cleanly decided.

Usually, markets don't like uncertainty. But today, both the Comp and the

Dow Jones Industrial Average were higher. What's the deal with that?

Simply put, Alan Greenspan's love letter to investors has really shored up this market. On Dec. 5, the

Federal Reserve Chairman

made comments that indicated he was aware that the American economy was indeed slowing and made small noises that the

Federal Open Market Committee

would consider changing its bias to neutral at its Dec. 19 meeting. That means an end to six-straight rate hikes, taking the pressure off interest rates and keeping the foot off the economic brake for a while.

And in the wake of this new happiness, analysts have made bullish comments, inspiring investors to come out of hiding and join the buyers.

Merrill Lynch's

Christine Callies, formerly of

Credit Suisse First Boston

, and

UBS Warburg's

Ed Kerschner both released notes this morning, telling investors that the time was now. Simply put, both said the

S&P 500 was at its most attractive level in two years.

For what it's worth, investors were heeding the call, sending the

Dow Jones Industrial Average slightly higher, though it was recently well off session highs.

Within the industrials, a grudge match showdown between

J.P. Morgan

(JPM) - Get Report

and the retail industry was drawing the most attention. Morgan, already rising in the wake of Greenspan's apparent anti-hike stance, has been strong all day after some nice analyst comments, while fears of a Grinch-worthy Christmas hammered

Home Depot

(HD) - Get Report

and

Wal-Mart

(WMT) - Get Report

.

Today,

Goldman Sachs

released a note on

Lehman Brothers

(LEH)

and

Morgan Stanley Dean Witter

(MWD)

, insinuating that the pair were undervalued and had taken a disproportionate share of the beating. Yet another reason to rally.

Since the election, the brokers have been a wild bunch. A heavy post-election slump saw the index fall throughout the month of November as the money poured out of the market. But this December, the story has been a far different one. Investors are sweeping into the sector as the interest-rate picture has improved, driving the index up about 19% since its close on Nov. 30.

That continued today.

Intel

(INTC) - Get Report

and

Microsoft

(MSFT) - Get Report

were also much higher as buyers return to technology's chalk outline, and lift the battered sector.

Semiconductors were especially good, with the

Philadelphia Stock Exchange Semiconductor Index

gaining 4.5%. Biotechs, large-cap tech and even dot-coms were also much higher.

Sector Watch

Bankers, recovering in the wake of that disastrous

Bank of America

(BAC) - Get Report

warning and amid fears that the entire industry is teetering on a mountain of poor-quality debt, have also bounced back, rallying for the third-straight day. The

American Stock Exchange Securities Broker/Dealer Index

, which tracks the sector, rose 3%.

It's getting cold out. Real cold. And that means that natural gas prices are gonna go up and that means more profits for the companies that provide natural gas or aid in the exploration of it. At last check, natural gas futures on the New York Mercantile Exchange were up 10% to 9.44, yet another day of gains. As a result, a direct result, the

American Stock Exchange Natural Gas Index

was up 2.4%.

Meanwhile the drillers in the

Philadelphia Stock Exchange Oil Service Index

were up 4.5% as an indirect result of the higher gas prices. You see, natural gas is a byproduct of drilling for crude and as the drillers look for oil, they sometimes strike gas, also a valuable commodity.

Still, there were some real stinky sectors out there today. As the sales racks pile up with low-margin sale items, it's not beginning to look a lot like a profitable Christmas for retailers. The

S&P Retail Index

was under pressure again, falling 3.8%.

Safe-play chemical and gold stocks were also lower.

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Bonds/Economy

Treasuries are giving back the gains they made late in the day on Friday, reflecting the shift that occurred over the weekend in the presidential contest.

The benchmark 10-year

Treasury note lately was down 10/32 at 102 31/32, lifting its yield to 5.354%.

Treasuries rallied on Friday afternoon after the Florida Supreme Court ordered recounts in Florida, a development with the potential to benefit Democratic candidate

Al Gore

. The bond rally was based on the prospect of continued stock market declines while the outcome of the election remains in doubt, and on the belief that Gore would do more than Republican candidate

George W. Bush

to reduce the supply of Treasury securities by using federal government surpluses to pay down the national debt.

The Treasury market is giving back those gains after the U.S. Supreme Court Saturday ordered the recounts halted, a development that favors Bush.

A rally in the stock market is also sapping demand for bonds. No major economic news is slated before Wednesday, which brings the November

retail sales

(

definition |

chart |

source

) report.

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