US STOCKS-Wall St rises on earnings; likely to run higher

  * Quarter-end window dressing boosts market
  * Earnings optimism stays; Oracle to report after the bell
  * Dow up 0.6 pct, S&P up 0.7 pct, Nasdaq up 1.1 pct
 * For up-to-the-minute market news see [STXNEWS/US]
 (Updates to early afternoon)
 By Caroline Valetkevitch
 NEW YORK, March 24 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks advanced on
Thursday, helped by optimism about earnings and investors
buying the quarter's high performers, while the S&P 500's push
above a key level could signal further gains.
 The S&P 500 broke above its 50-day moving average at
1,305, and analysts said the market may have gotten past the
worst of its recent pullback.
 "What I saw yesterday and today is a stabilization of the
market," said Bruce Zaro, chief technical strategist at Delta
Global Asset Management in Boston.
 "There have been a few good earnings reports that have
given investors a bit more confidence that earnings are likely
to hold ... so the story will continue that the rally has been
built on strong earnings momentum," he said.
 The Dow has a good chance of making a new 12-month high in
the next six weeks, Zaro said. The current high is 12,391.
 The S&P 500 is up 24 percent since the start of September
but briefly dipped into negative territory for the year
recently amid worries about high oil prices and the disaster
in Japan.
 The S&P 500 consumer discretionary index (.GSPD: Quote, Profile, Research) was up
1.3 percent after electronics retailer Best Buy  (BBY.N: Quote, Profile, Research)
reported better-than-expected earnings on strong smartphone
sales.
 Best Buy's stock, however, was down 4 percent at $30.58,
reversing earlier gains that took it as high as $32.98. The
stock also touched a fresh 52-week low at $30.24.
 Oracle (ORCL.O: Quote, Profile, Research), due to report after the close, gained 1.4
percent to $31.83 and helped lift the Nasdaq, which was up
more than 1 percent.
 The Dow Jones industrial average (.DJI: Quote, Profile, Research) was up 74.47
points, or 0.62 percent, at 12,160.49. The Standard & Poor's
500 Index (.SPX: Quote, Profile, Research) was up 9.10 points, or 0.70 percent, at
1,306.64. The Nasdaq Composite Index (.IXIC: Quote, Profile, Research) was up 29.86
points, or 1.11 percent, at 2,728.16.
 It was a second day of gains for the market, with the S&P
500 up 1.9 percent so far for the week.
 "I don't think the pullbacks from here will have much
substance or bite to them," said Steve Goldman, market
strategist at Weeden & Co. in Greenwich, Connecticut. "The
path of least resistance still remains higher."
 With the market near the end of the quarter, portfolio
managers will buy equities as they execute window dressing,
and  hedge funds will cover short positions that are under
pressure.
 The S&P energy index (.GSPE: Quote, Profile, Research) is among leading sectors for
the quarter, with gains so far of 13.5 percent. But the index
was flat on Thursday.
 The S&P technology index (.GPPT: Quote, Profile, Research), up 2.7 percent so far
for the quarter, was up 1.2 percent on Thursday.
 A semiconductor index (.SOX: Quote, Profile, Research) was up 2.2 percent.
 Red Hat Inc (RHT.N: Quote, Profile, Research) surged 16.7 percent to $46.63 after a
brokerage upgraded the stock. The company's earnings topped
estimates late Wednesday. [ID:nWNAB0203]
 Earnings growth is expected to help the market overcome
worries about unrest in the Middle East and North Africa and
Japan's crisis this year.
 The S&P 500 was forecast to end the year 11 percent
higher, according to a Reuters poll released on Thursday.
 <^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
 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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 (Reporting by Caroline Valetkevitch; Editing by Jan Paschal)







US STOCKS-Wall St rises on earnings; likely to run higher