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Stocks Find Midday Lift

The major averages advance as buyers emerge and oil retreats from last week's highs. A swath of quarterly results from insurers and mortgage companies provide a lot of data for investors to mull.

Updated from 11:01 a.m. EDT

Stocks in the U.S. broke from early uncertainly to book convincing gains around midday, as bargain hunters kept their focus on cooling oil futures rather than a negative-leaning pile of corporate earnings reports.


Dow Jones Industrial Average

shot up 96 points at 12,842, and the

S&P 500

swelled by 9 points at 1397. The

Nasdaq Composite

was the best-performing index, spiking 29 points at 2474.

"It looks to me like a lot of investors believe

last week's pullback provides an opportunity to step back into the market," said Paul Mendelsohn, chief investment strategist with Windham Financial. "It got too far ahead of them, and they've felt like they've been missing it, and they didn't want to chase it, so now they're picking up bargains."

He also noted that the S&P tagged its 20-day moving average in the prior session's selloff. "That's the natural point for the market to stop here, so there's basically a support right at that level. A lot of the activity you're seeing today is more technical in nature."

Action in crude oil, which was in retreat from some of last week's massive gains, also appeared to hearten investors. Future were recently down $1.06 to $124.90 a barrel.

Even though the nationwide average for gas prices at the pump touched an all-time high of $3.718, according to AAA, retailers were taking benefit from the crude reprieve. Retailers


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Home Depot

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were up 1.4% and 1%, respectively, and the Dow Jones U.S. Retail Index and the S&P Retail Index each ramped up around 1.5%.

At the same time, gold futures lost $2.20 to $888 an ounce. The U.S. dollar lost grip on some of its early gains against the euro, and was recently softening by 0.4% to $1.5530. Against the yen, however, the greenback remained higher by 0.8%.


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lost $2.41 billion in the first quarter as the beleaguered bond insurer took a $3.6 billion hit in unrealized losses on insured derivatives. Still, the stock took back the bulk of its heavy Friday losses, when insurance giant


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reported a big shortfall of its own. MBIA shares were tacking on 6.2%.

"You saw it with AIG," said Mendelsohn. "We had some negative news, and we did some damage, but we didn't really knock the daylights out of financials."

Of MBIA, he added, "She's up, but that's still an ugly-looking chart."

Mortgage insurer



also swung to a quarterly loss, and rival


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did the same when excluding unrealized gains on derivatives and hybrid securities. Keeping in those gains, said Radian, the company booked a profit of $195.6 million. PMI started in positive territory before recently deflating to a loss of 0.5%, but Radian shares were still up 4.6%.

Also swinging to a first-quarter loss was mortgage lender



. The firm, which

lost $184.2 million

, or $2.27 a share, warned that it won't achieve a profit until the plunge in housing prices eases up. Shares were plunging 7.9%.



was up 2.7%, however, after saying first-quarter earnings climbed from last year, thanks to its success in emerging markets such as Asia. That came even as the Britain-based bank wrote down $2.6 billion in assets and doubled its loan-impairment charges.

Away from financials,

Sprint Nextel

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saw choppy trading after sharply widening its first-quarter loss to $505 million, or 18 cents a share, as it continued to lose subscribers. Stripping out one-time expenses, Sprint made 4 cents a share, or 2 cents better than expected, even as

revenue fell short

. Shares were lately down 2 cents at $9.36.

XM Satellite Radio



lost more money

in its latest quarter, missing the consensus target, but shares ticked up 1.3%. XM's merger partner


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, which is expected to post its results following the close of trading, was ahead by 3.4%.

Meanwhile, confirmation came that



has agreed to pay Tribune Co. $650 million for the Long Island newspaper Newsday. Over the weekend, Rupert Murdoch's

News Corp.

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retracted its own $580 million offer

for the paper. Cablevision slipped 2.5%, and News Corp. was off by a penny at $19.34.

Elsewhere, after Friday's market close


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said harsh economic conditions and climbing fuel prices have squeezed its bottom line, and the package-delivery outfit

slashed its current-quarter earnings forecast

. Still, shares reversed course from a lower start, and were moving up 0.5%.

Treasury prices were hiking up. The 10-year note lifted by 8/32 in price to yield 3.74%, and the 30-year bond added 20/32 in price, yielding 4.48%.

Markets abroad were mixed. In Asia, Tokyo's Nikkei 225 added 0.6% overnight. Hong Kong was closed. Among European exchanges, the FTSE 100 in London and the Paris Cac were rising roughly 0.3% apiece, and Germany's Xetra Dax was climbed 0.5%.