Dow Watch: GM, Merck Lead Advance

Updated from 1:37 p.m. EDT

You Didn't Imagine It

( At 5:10 p.m. EDT)

Some of you are starting to get like Fox Mulder. You want to believe. No, not in aliens, friends. In the market. You do.

Why not? The Dow Jones Industrial Average just wrapped up a four-session winning streak, adding 53.92 points, or 0.8%, to 7223.98. For the week, the index was up 597.04 points, or 9%. That's only the fourth weekly gain since the end of October, and it ended a four-decline string.

I'm so used to writing about what a relief it is for the week to be finished that I don't know what to do. Like pretty much anyone with a retirement account, I'm surprised and admittedly pleased to see that the market had some traction these past few days.

During the final session of the week, 18 of the Dow's 30 stocks rose, while 11 fell and one, 3M ( MMM), was unchanged.

General Motors ( GM) was the top performer on a percentage basis, jumping 24.8% to $2.72. Merck ( MRK) was another strong name, up 12.7% at $27.07. The gain for the drugmaker followed upbeat data on a treatment from Schering-Plough ( SGP), which Merck plans to acquire, and the move accounted for more than 24 points of the Dow's advance.

Alcoa, down 4.2%, had the worst decline. United Technologies ( UTX) gave back 2.9%.

Thanks to the recent strength, the Dow pared its loss for the year to 17.7%. So far in March, it's up 2.3%, and since going out at a 12-year low on Monday, the industrials have surged 10.3%. Maybe we're back to doom-and-gloom in just a few days, but for now, it's all good. I won't complain.

RealMoney Barometer Poll
1 What would best describe your stance heading into the coming week of trading?
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2 Which of these sectors do you think is set to move up in the coming week?
3 Which of these sectors do you think is set to move down in the coming week?

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Nothing to Worry About

( At 1:05 p.m. EDT)

Let's not get greedy. No need to panic. So the Dow is taking a little break Friday, and its three-session rally might not extend to four.

However, this has been an upbeat week overall for the index -- the chiefs of Citigroup ( C), Bank of America ( BAC) and JPMorgan Chase ( JPM) have all been optimistic, the news from Washington has been not awful, if not good in some cases, and at least a few people actually seem to believe stocks could be pulling out of their awful bear market.

Without question, we have a long way to go before we can be confident that the economy and equities have turned the corner and are ready to get into growth mode. Still, as I and others have said on this site in recent days, it's nice to be reminded what gains look like.

Recently, the Dow was up 16 points at 7186. Thus far, the range has been roughly 7106 to 7243. Of the 30 stocks, 16 were up and 14 were down. General Motors ( GM) was the best performer on a percentage basis, adding 23% to $2.68. Merck ( MRK) followed with an 8.2% increase. Citi, the most active component, was up 6.6%.

On the downside, Microsoft ( MSFT), Alcoa ( AA) and American Express ( AXP) were all off more than 4%.

Looks like the day will be close, but that four-week losing streak is likely a thing of the past.

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