A two-day win streak, the highest close in more than a month, and no repeat of the crazy rollercoaster ride like the one investors saw Wednesday. But the good news for bulls doesn't stop there. Not only did the Dow remain in positive territory for the entire session, the late push to 7924.56 means that the blue chip average is now up 21.04% from its 12-year closing low hit on March 9. Yes, folks. Technically, the Dow is now considered to be in a bull market. March came in like a lion, but with the Dow sporting a 12.2% gain for the month, we're heading out like a bull. But let's be honest, OK? We're a long way from 6547.05, the close on March 9, but we're still down 44% from the record close hit on Oct. 9, 2007. As I said earlier, it's encouraging to see the Dow rally without the financial sector lending a hand. While Hewlett-Packard ( HPQ), 3M ( MMM), Caterpillar ( CAT) and United Technologies ( UTX) were the top contributors to the Dow's upward movement, Citigroup ( C) and Bank of America ( BAC) were the only two components to finish with losses. Looking ahead to Friday, the earnings docket is practically empty and the economic releases include only a report on personal income and spending as well as the University of Michigan's consumer sentiment index. And with no Senate committee hearings scheduled, we might actually have a quiet end to a very busy week. (At 3:48 p.m. EDT) To take a line from CNBC, we're now in the most important 15 minutes of the trading day, and the Dow is fighting to hold onto the 7900 level.
Whether or not it finishes above that watermark, it looks as though the blue chip index will notch its first two-day winning streak in a week. But despite rallying more than 1,000 points over the last two weeks, the Dow still remains more than 850 points, or about 10%, below its close on Dec. 31. That looks even worse as today the Nasdaq returned to positive territory for the year. Still, Dow 7900 looks a lot better to the bulls than Dow 6500. Financials are still not participating in the rally, with Bank of America ( BAC), Citigroup ( C) and JPMorgan Chase ( JPM) among the only five laggards on the Dow Thursday. General Motors ( GM) continues to be the best performing component, up 12.4% heading into the close (At 1:17 p.m. EDT) The Dow has rallied to new session highs as General Motors ( GM) continued to build on its gains. The index was lately up 151 points, breaking through the 7900 level. One word of caution: it was about this time yesterday that the Dow surrendered all of its gains and fell sharply below the flat line. The Dow last closed above 7900 on Feb. 12. What I find interesting is that the Dow is rallying without help from most financials. American Express ( AXP) was the only financial-related company in positive territory (unless you count General Electric ( GE). Bank of America ( BAC), Citigroup ( C) and JPMorgan Chase ( JPM) are all in the red by 2% or more. Elsewhere, it appears that at least one of the M's in 3M ( MMM) stands for mutiny. While the news probably isn't the catalyst for the 3% gain, reports surfaced Thursday morning that workers at a French factory held their boss hostage as part of a protest against planned layoffs.
(At 11:43 a.m. EDT) The Dow Jones Industrial Average is taking another stab Thursday at closing above the 7800 level, thanks to gains in components General Motors ( GM) and Hewlett-Packard ( HPQ). On Wednesday, the Dow rallied more than 200 points to a high of 7863 and then saw a sharp selloff before eventually finishing the day with gains. The blue chip average looks to be running into resistance at the same level Thursday, reaching a high of 7855 before retreating back to 7817, where it currently sits. The Dow last closed above 7800 on Feb. 13. GM jumped more than 10% after the automaker said 7,500 hourly workers have agreed to buyouts and early retirement offers. Most of the employees taking buyouts will leave the company no later than April 1, GM said. Shares were rallying 34 cents, or 11.4%, to $3.33. Tech names were also among the strong gainers on the Dow. H-P was rising nearly 5% to $32.48, Intel ( INTC) tacked on 3.8% and Microsoft ( MSFT) added 2.1%. Financials were among the laggards Thursday, with Citigroup ( C) losing 3.4% and JPMorgan Chase ( JPM) shedding 0.5%. Both traded lower after Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner told the House Financial Services Committee that the Obama administration will seek to regulate the market for credit default swaps and other types of derivatives and require hedge funds to register with the Securities and Exchange Commission.