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Stocks Surge Late to Close Higher

A big December manufacturing report comes in stronger than expected.

Updated from 3:19 p.m. EST

The major averages closed solidly in positive territory Wednesday after spending much of the session below the flatline.

For a substantial part of the trading day, investors seemed directionless following positive news from the semiconductor sector, an encouraging manufacturing report, and negative comments from analysts on retail, but in the end, enough buyers emerged to send the indices to higher finishes on the first trading day of 2002. The

Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 51.90 points, or 0.5%, to 10,073.40. The

Nasdaq was up 28.85 points, or 1.5%, at 1979.25, and the

S&P 500 added 6.59 points, or 0.6%, to 1154.67.

European stocks were primarily lower, but London's FTSE 100 was up fractionally to 5218 and Germany's Xetra Dax gained 0.2% to 5168. In Asia, Japan's Nikkei was up 0.8% to 10,543, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 0.4% to 11,351.

The Institute for Supply Management, formerly the National Association of Purchasing Management, reported a better-than-expected reading of 48.2 in its manufacturing index for December, suggesting that an economic recovery could happen sooner than previously expected. Economists polled by

Reuters

were expecting a reading of around 46.

Tech shares got a boost on news that South Korean semiconductor giant

Hynix

raised DRAM prices by 30%, reflecting stronger PC demand, especially in China. The announcement lifted

Micron

(MU) - Get Report

, which is engaged in alliance talks with Hynix. Micron traded up $2.24, or 7.2%, to $33.24.

Prudential Securities lowered

Kmart

TheStreet Recommends

(KM)

to sell from hold, contributing to a less buoyant tone in the broader market. The brokerage cited worse-than-expected holiday results. But Kmart responded to its critics, saying it has enough cash and lines of credit to carry its business strategies. Shares of the retail giant lost 72 cents, or 13.2%, to $4.74.

JDS Uniphase

(JDSU)

climbed 45 cents, or 5.2%, to $9.13 following the completion of its announced acquisition of

IBM's

(IBM) - Get Report

optical transceiver unit. The company paid $126.9 million in cash and stock.

Microsoft

(MSFT) - Get Report

is being urged by some investors and analysts to offer a dividend to its current shareholders in light of its $36 billion cash reserve, according to a report in

The Wall Street Journal

. Shares of the software giant gained 79 cents to $67.04.

In the drug sector,

Schering-Plough's

(SGP)

shares were under pressure earlier in the session following a negative research note from ABN Amro. Analysts said that one of its combination allergy drugs containing Claritin failed to show significant improvement in Phase III clinical trials. Still, shares of the drugmaker rebounded to close up 19 cents, or 0.5%, to $36.

Meanwhile, the fifth Argentine president in two weeks, Eduardo Duhalde, is formulating a currency strategy for release later in the week, although the former senator isn't expected to change the country's recent decision to default on foreign debt payments.

Government notes and bonds were lower across the board. Around 4 p.m. EST, the 10-year Treasury note was down a point at 98 25/32, yielding 5.16%.