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Stocks Rally Following News of Cease-Fire in Middle East

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We're mere hours away from stuffing our faces with turkey, cranberries, and all sorts of other holiday goodies. But before we do, there are a few precious minutes of trading before the holidays begin and we turn our focus to Black Friday.

Markets turned generally higher in early trading after a couple of positive economic reports. The Conference Board said that its leading economic index rose 0.2% in October, indicating modest economic expansion in early 2013. Initial jobless claims also dropped 41,000 to a seasonally adjusted level of 410,000. This was slightly lower than expected but still elevated due to Hurricane Sandy.

Near 12:30 p.m. EST, a cease-fire was announced in the Israel and Gaza, where rockets have been flying back and forth. That fueled the rally, and now markets are solidly higher. As of 3:20 p.m. EST, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI  ) is up 0.34%, while the S&P 500 (INDEX: ^GSPC  ) is up 0.2%.

The big "winner" of the day is Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ  ) , which has jumped 3.25% after a disastrous day yesterday. I wouldn't read too much into the jump today, because it looks more like a dead-cat bounce than anything. The company still has a lot of challenges ahead.

Consumer stocks were mixed ahead of the all-important shopping weekend. Wal-Mart's (NYSE: WMT  ) shares fell 0.1%, Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) rose 0.2%, and Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN  ) was up 0.9%. These are three stocks to watch on Friday, when we'll start to get a feel for how enthusiastic shoppers are about the holidays.

The one commodity that is down because of the cease-fire is oil. The black gold has fallen 0.1% after yesterday's big drop amid hopes that an agreement between the battling Middle Eastern states would be reached. All things considered, the drop in oil isn't a bad thing.

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