US STOCKS-S&P 500 edges higher as financials gain

* S&P 500 at pre-Lehman levels

* Walgreen jumps on earnings

* Financial stocks rise

* Indexes: Dow up 0.01 pct, S&P up 0.2 pct, Nasdaq up 0.1

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

By Edward Krudy

NEW YORK, Dec 22 (BestGrowthStock) – U.S. stocks (Read more about the stock market today. ) edged higher on
Wednesday as financial stocks helped extend four days of gains
that drove the S&P 500 to levels not seen since before Lehman
Brothers went bankrupt two years ago.

Financial stocks, which have helped drive the recent rally
after lagging through the autumn, were stronger. Bank of
American Corp (BAC.N: ) rose 2.1 percent to $13.27, while JP
Morgan Chase & Co (JPM.N: ) climbed 2.1 percent to $41.85.

The KBW regional bank index (.KRX: ) rose nearly 3 percent
and is now up almost 18 percent for the month. Within that,
Provident Financial Services Inc (PFS.N: ) climbed 1.3 percent to
$15.45.

Despite technical indicators pointing to an overbought
market after the S&P 500 has climbed over 6 percent this month,
interest from institutional investors could sustain a thinly
traded market through the holiday period.

“They’re just trying to close out the year well,” said
Wayne Kaufman, chief market analyst at John Thomas Financial in
New York. “A lot of the bearish patterns or indicators over the
last few weeks have failed, and a failed bearish setup is very
bullish.”

The Dow Jones industrial average (.DJI: ) gained 6.05 points,
or 0.05 percent, to 11,539.21. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index
(.SPX: ) rose 2.35 points, or 0.19 percent, to 1,256.95. The
Nasdaq Composite Index (.IXIC: ) added 2.83 points, or 0.11
percent, to 2,670.44.

The S&P 500 is above 1,255.08, a level last seen in
September 2008, before Lehman collapsed and an important
psychological barrier for investors.

Energy shares rose as crude oil futures (CLc1: ) topped $90 a
barrel. Chevron Corp (CVX.N: ) added 0.3 percent to $89.49, while
Exxon Mobil Corp (XOM.N: ) climbed 0.2 percent to $72.89.

High levels of bullishness and the S&P 500 relative
strength index (RSI) are among indicators pointing to an
overbought condition but that may only be worked off before
traders return from the holidays in January.

The latest Investors Intelligence sentiment survey, which
monitors comments from investment advisers, showed bulls rose
to 58.8 percent last week, the highest point since 2007. Only
20.5 percent of investors are bearish, according to the
survey.

In corporate news, Nike Inc (NKE.N: ) posted future orders
that missed expectations on Tuesday, sending shares of the
world’s largest athletic shoe and clothing maker down 5.8
percent to $86.90.

Walgreen Co (WAG.N: ) posted higher profit on increased
prescription sales and a slower pace of store openings that
helped control costs, sending its shares up 7.8 percent to
$39.65.

Geopolitics is a wild card. South Korea announced military
exercises, including its largest-ever live-fire drill near
North Korea just as tensions on the peninsula were beginning to
ease after Pyongyang’s attack on a southern island.
[ID:nTOE6BL01T]

U.S. economic growth was a touch stronger than previously
estimated in the third quarter, but consumer spending was
softer. [ID:nN22291718]
(Reporting by Edward Krudy; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

US STOCKS-S&P 500 edges higher as financials gain