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Stocks Hold to Gains

The major averages continue higher as buyers emerge and oil retreats from last week's highs. RIM is among the latest climbers after unveiling its new 3G smartphone.

Updated from 12:28 p.m. EDT

Stocks in the U.S. broke from early uncertainly to book convincing gains into the afternoon, 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 99 points at 12,845, and the

S&P 500

swelled by 9 points at 1397. The tech-heavy

Nasdaq Composite

was the best-performing index, spiking 28 points at 2474, as

Research In Motion


reaped gains on a new product release.

"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."

Robert Pavlik, chief investment officer with Oaktree Asset Management, noted that Friday's slide occurred amidst the lowest-volume day since Dec. 28 of last year, meaning trading activity registered below even the thinly traded rally that has marked most of 2008.

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"I think that's pretty telltale, that the market isn't that interested in selling things off just because oil prices are going higher," Pavlik said. "I get a sense from the market that many are expecting a pullback in oil, and what's been driving it is largely speculation."

A new record for crude oil accompanied the last session's equities plunge, but today futures were in retreat, and that appeared to help bolster investor sentiment. Crude was recently down $1.21 to $124.75 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. Dow components


(WMT) - Get Walmart Inc. Report


Home Depot

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were up 1.5% and 1.2%, respectively, and the Dow Jones U.S. Retail Index and the S&P Retail Index ramped up 1.4% and 2%.

At the same time, gold futures lost 90 cents to $884.90 an ounce. The U.S. dollar lost grip on some of its early gains against the euro, and was recently softening by 0.5% to $1.5558. Against the yen, however, the greenback remained higher by 0.7%.

As for RIM, the tech name bounced 6.7% after unveiling its new BlackBerry Bold design, a 3G smartphone seen as a rival to


(AAPL) - Get Apple Inc. (AAPL) Report

iPhone. Apple shares were picking up 2.3%.

Simultaneously, the Dow Jones U.S. Software Index and the Amex Networking Index climbed roughly 1.5% apiece. Dow tech components


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(HPQ) - Get HP Inc. (HPQ) Report



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were all adding 1.3% or more.

Over in the financial space,


(MBI) - Get MBIA Inc. Report

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 5.1%.

"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 was lately up 1%, and Radian shares rose 7.2%.

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%.



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 2.6%.

XM Satellite Radio



lost more money

in its latest quarter, missing the consensus target, but shares rode 4.2% higher. XM's merger partner


(SIRI) - Get Sirius XM Holdings, Inc. Report

, which is expected to post its results following the close of trading, moved up 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 2.9%, and News Corp. was hugging the flat line.

Elsewhere, after Friday's market close


(FDX) - Get FedEx Corporation Report

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

slashed its current-quarter earnings forecast

. Shares were giving up 9 cents at $90.28.

Treasury prices were on the rise. The 10-year note lifted by 5/32 in price to yield 3.75%, and the 30-year bond added 14/32 in price, yielding 4.49%.

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 finished up roughly 0.3% apiece, and Germany's Xetra Dax climbed 0.5%.