US STOCKS-Banks, homebuilders lift Wall Street

* Banks up after Europe news, Goldman Sachs upgrade

* Home builders gain after October pending home sales rise

* Dow up 0.9 pct, S&P up 1.1 pct, Nasdaq up 1 pct

* for up-to-the-minute market news see [STXNEWS/US]
(Updates to afternoon)

By Angela Moon

NEW YORK, Dec 2 (BestGrowthStock) – Financial stocks led Wall
Street higher on Thursday after the European Central Bank left
in place a liquidity safety net for vulnerable banks.

The KBW bank index (.BKX: ) shot up 3.2 percent. The S&P 500
financial index (.GSPF: ) rose 2.3 percent, making it the largest
gainer among S&P sectors.

Stock investors were reassured by the ECB’s commitment that
its liquidity backstop for weakened euro-zone banks will
continue. For details see: [ID:nFLA2NE6FO] [ID:nLDE6B11HI]

“The fears had been centered on Europe. That seems to have
stabilized, and now the focus is on what will domestic and
international growth look like. People are betting that growth
will be better than people had feared,” said Mark Bronzo,
portfolio manager at Rydex-SGI in Irvington, New York.

Further supporting financial shares, Goldman Sachs Group
Inc (GS.N: ) said U.S. banks are on stronger footing because of
an improving economy, higher equity prices and a favorable
interest-rate environment. [ID:nSGE6B109L]

Shares of regional lender Marshall & Ilsley Corp (MI.N: )
jumped 8.8 percent to $5.31 and Bank of America Corp (BAC.N: )
gained 2.8 percent to $11.62.

Home builders’ stocks rose as an index of pending home
sales unexpectedly climbed in October, hinting the economic
recovery had started to stabilize. The Dow Jones U.S. Home
Construction index (.DJUSHB: ) advanced 4 percent.

The Dow Jones industrial average (.DJI: ) was up 98.38
points, or 0.87 percent, at 11,354.16. The Standard & Poor’s
500 Index (.SPX: ) was up 13.09 points, or 1.09 percent, at
1,219.16. The Nasdaq Composite Index (.IXIC: ) was up 23.63
points, or 0.93 percent, at 2,573.06.

Other data showed U.S. retailers reported
higher-than-forecast sales for November, while the four-week
moving average for initial weekly claims for jobless benefits
fell to a fresh two-year low, though new requests rose for the
week. [ID:nN02149928]

PepsiCo Inc (PEP.N: ) agreed to buy Russian juice and dairy
producer Wimm-Bill-Dann (WBD.N: ). U.S.-traded shares of
Wimm-Bill-Dann surged 27.3 percent to $31.15. [ID:nLDE6B110R]
Pepsico’s stock lost 0.9 percent to $65.03.

The Dow and the S&P 500 scored their biggest one-day
percentage gains in three months on Wednesday as optimism about
efforts to resolve the European Union’s debt crisis helped push
the S&P above 1,200.

If the S&P 500 continues to hold above 1,200, the market
will see strong resistance at 1,225-1,230, which coincides with
a recent two-year high and the 61.8 percent Fibonacci
retracement of the benchmark’s slide from October 2007 to March
2009, a key technical indicator.
(Additional reporting by Leah Schnurr; Editing by Padraic
Cassidy)

US STOCKS-Banks, homebuilders lift Wall Street