December can bring to mind images of snowy landscapes, gift-giving and, for many, decorating the Christmas tree. On Wall Street, however, it's the windows that get decorated. The big rally that greeted investors Thursday is an indication that market players are expecting money managers to pile into strong-performing stocks to prop up their portfolios (and their bonuses) before Dec 31. In other words, window-dressing. Regardless of the catalyst, it was an impressive day for stocks after three days of losses to start the week. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 106.70 points, or 0.9%, to 10,912.57. The S&P 500 advanced 15.19 points, or 1.22%, to 1264.67. The Nasdaq Composite jumped 1.54% to 2267.17. The gains were supported by strong market internals. Gainers led 25 to 7 in Big Board trading, where a solid 2.6 billion shares changed hands. Winners led 7 to 3 in Nasdaq trading where 2.1 billion changed hands. More interesting than whether fund managers are actually window-dressing, is where such managers are positioning themselves for December. Based on Thursday's action, it seems semiconductors, a leader of the rally in November, remains among the most favored sectors. Intel ( INTC), which rose 1.87%, was among the big gainers on the Dow, the S&P and the Nasdaq. But among the components of the Philadelphia Stock Exchange Semiconductor Sector Index, which rose 4.2%, it was actually among the laggards. National Semiconductor ( NSM) was up 7.8%, Freescale Semiconductor ( FSL-B) was up 6.6%, and Altera ( ALTR) was up 5%. Energy, still the best performing sector of 2005, also gained ground as a new cold spell lifted the price of crude oil. Crude oil for January delivery finished up $1.15 cents to $58.47 a barrel. The Amex oil index gained 3.37%, led by the likes of Valero ( VLO) and Sunoco ( SUN). Meanwhile, given that November chain-store sales were among the excuses du jour for the market to rally out of the gates Thursday morning, gains among retailers were actually paltry. The S&P retail index rose only 0.64%.