US STOCKS-Wall St gains but options market expects pullback


 * Quarter-end window dressing boosts market
 * Best Buy profit tops estimates, stock up 1.2 pct
 * Indexes rise: S&P 0.4 pct, Dow 0.3 pct, Nasdaq 0.5 pct
 * For up-to-the-minute market news see [STXNEWS/US]
  (Updates to early-morning trade)
 By Angela Moon
 NEW YORK, March 24 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks gained on
Thursday as portfolio managers and hedge funds purchased
high-performing shares near the end of the quarter, but options
investors placed more defensive bets on the market.
 Electronics retailer Best Buy Co Inc (BBY.N: Quote, Profile, Research) rose 2.5
percent to $32.64, lifting retail shares, after reporting
better-than-expected earnings on strong smartphone sales. The
S&P retail index added nearly 1 percent. For details, see
[ID:nN23303343]
 With the market near the end of the quarter end, portfolio
managers will be buyers as they execute window dressing, and
hedge funds cover short positions that are under pressure.
 The Dow Jones industrial average (.DJI: Quote, Profile, Research) advanced 47.57
points, or 0.39 percent, at 12,133.59. The Standard & Poor's
500 Index (.SPX: Quote, Profile, Research) was up 3.80 points, or 0.29 percent, at
1,301.34. The Nasdaq Composite Index (.IXIC: Quote, Profile, Research) put on 12.39
points, or 0.46 percent, at 2,710.69.
 S&P 100 index (.OEX: Quote, Profile, Research) traders were looking for a correction,
though, as the put/call ratio surged near a five-year high on
Wednesday, according to Jason Goepfert, president of
sentimentrader.com.
 "Even during the past six months, such spikes in that ratio
have led to more short-term weakness than strength," he said.
 Concerns over a spreading euro zone debt crisis appeared to
be receding. "(The) Street appears ready to put concerns about
Europe's fiscal health on the proverbial back burner, said
Andrea Kramer, an analyst at Schaeffer's Investment Research in
Cincinnati, Ohio.
 The Portuguese prime minister resigned and warned of grave
consequences for the country after parliament rejected his
government's latest austerity measures aimed at avoiding a
bailout. [ID:nLDE72N0AM]
 Red Hat Inc (RHT.N: Quote, Profile, Research) rose 16 percent to $46.36 after a
brokerage upgraded the stock. The company's earnings topped
estimates late Wednesday. [ID:nWNAB0203]
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 The S&P 500 will finish the year with double-digit gains,
unfazed by Japan's nuclear crisis or unrest in the Middle East
and North Africa, a Reuters poll found. For details, see
[ID:nN22164148]
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  (Additional reporting by Doris Frankel in Chicago, Editing by
Jeffrey Benkoe)






US STOCKS-Wall St gains but options market expects pullback