Stocks rallied on the first trading day of the new year

–(– 01/04/2010 – Economy industry news provided by Financial News USA. Stocks rallied on the first trading day of the new year, dominated by an old theme: Dollar weakness boosting commodity prices – and the broader market.

U.S. markets were closed Friday for New Year’s Day. On Thursday, stocks fell, with the three major indexes down about 1 percent. For 2009, the Dow gained 19 percent, the S&P rose 24 percent, and the Nasdaq added 44 percent.

In today’s action, the US dollar index dropped nearly 0.5 percent in early trade as US light, sweet crude oil prices rumbled past $81 a barrel and gold jumped past $1,100 an ounce.

Shares of Chesapeake Energy [CHK 27.17 1.29 (+4.98%) ] jumped after French oil giant Total agreed to buy a 25-percent stake in the company’s barnett Shale gas fields for $2.25 billion.

Alcoa [AA 16.50 0.38 (+2.36%) ], Intel [INTC 20.91 0.51 (+2.5%) ] and Boeing [BA 55.50 1.37 (+2.53%) ] led the Dow.

Technology looked particularly strong: Garmin [GRMN 31.818 1.118 (+3.64%) ], Sirius XM [SIRI 0.6239 0.0239 (+3.98%) ] and Broadcom [BRCM 32.29 0.82 (+2.61%) ] were among the early leaders on the Nasdaq.

European shares started the year higher, while Asian stocks closed mixed, eyeing economic data later in the week.

The market was buzzing about comments from Ben Bernanke on Sunday: The Fed chairman said the central bank must be open to rate hikes as a possible means of popping asset bubbles. He was speaking at the American Economic Association’s annual meeting.

The U.S. economic calendar includes two reports to kick off the new year: the ISM’s December manufacturing index is out at 10 am New York time, while the government releases construction spending for November at that same time. Economists see the ISM index coming in at 54.1, up slightly from November’s 53.6 reading, while construction spending is seen as dropping 0.5% for November, compared to October’s unchanged reading.

The earnings calendar is virtually empty today, but fourth quarter earnings season starts soon and likely will be a major influence in the markets in the weeks ahead.

The dispute over carriage of the Fox Networks has been resolved between Time Warner Cable [TWC 42.21 0.82 (+1.98%) ] and Fox parent News Corp., [NWS 16.35 0.43 (+2.7%) ] while customers of Cablevision [CVC 26.04 0.22 (+0.85%) ] remain without Food Network and HGTV, owned by Scripps [SSP 7.27 0.31 (+4.45%) ], as those two parties continue a dispute over carriage rates.

Switzerland’s Novartis is seeking to buy the portion of eye care product maker Alcon [ACL 159.04 -5.31 (-3.23%) ] that it doesn’t already own for $39.3 billion. The deal would involve acquiring a 52% stake in Alcon from Nestle.

New airport rules go into effect today, with passengers from a handful of countries being subjected to enhanced screening techniques. The TSA says this will be applied to anyone traveling from or through nations regarded as state sponsors of terrorism or “other countries of interest”.

The Census Bureau kicks off its $300 million campaign to coax Americans to fill out their census forms, hoping to top the 67% response rate from the 2000 census. About Financial News USA

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