Not-as-bad economic data drives stocks higher

From a slightly higher core reading from the consumer price index to better-than-expect housing data to the Federal Reserve's Beige Book, which revealed that some of the 12 Fed regions are seeing a deceleration in the slowdown, economic news best described as "less bad" helped buoy stocks today, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 109 points, or 1.4 percent, to close at 8,030.

Financial stocks including JPMorgan Chase (JPM) and American Express (AXP) were among the Dow's biggest gainers, while tech companies such as Microsoft (MSFT) and Intel (INTC) fell.

Some of the stocks making headlines today:

American Express (AXP) rose considerably higher after releasing delinquencies data that showed it was not suffering as much as a rival in the credit cards arena. It might not be a bottom in the trend, but it was "less-bad" enough that traders had the stock up 10% at $20.40 right before teh close.

Dendreon (DNDN) was up late in the day. When you look at the gain yesterday and all of the options interest, this is likely a move on options expiration in 48 hours. Shares were up almost 2% at $17.28 right before the close, and that follows well over a 100% gain yesterday.

General Motors (GM) may have a buyer for its Saturn unit. It is from an unknown group and its overall terms are far from known, but there was word that GM would address this next week.

SIRIUS XM Radio (SIRI) rose on what looked to be an unexpected debt rating upgrade over at S&P. The CCC+ rating doesn't sound great, but any help here adds to the notion that the end of the risks of it disappearing. Shares were up 7% at $0.38 before the close.

Starbucks (SBUX) took a downgrade to SELL at Deutsche Bank today from an already cautious HOLD rating based on competitive pressure and sales. The stock was down 2% at $11.63 right ahead of the close, and that might be a win considering that Shares were down 6% earlier.

Yahoo! (YHOO) was down 1% shortly before the close at $13.93. The company is apparently about to have a large round of layoffs under the new management of Carol Bartz. Not the greatest return to growth endorsement.
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