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S&P 500 advances 4th day after cease-fire reached in Gaza

U.S. stocks rose Wednesday, sending the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index higher a fourth day, as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Amr announced a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.

Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ) rallied 2 percent after tumbling 12 percent Tuesday. Salesforce.com Inc. (NYSE: CRM), the largest maker of online customer-management software, rose 8.8 percent after forecasting sales and profit that were in line with analysts’ projections. Deere & Co. (NYSE: DE), the largest agricultural equipment maker, fell 3.7 percent as earnings missed analysts’ estimates.

The S&P 500 gained 0.2 percent to 1,391.03. It rose 2.8 percent in four days for the longest winning streak since Oct. 4. The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 48.38 points, or 0.4 percent, to 12,836.89 Wednesday. Volume for exchange-listed stocks in the U.S. was 4.8 billion shares, or 22 percent below the three-month daily average. The U.S. market will close for the Thanksgiving holiday.

“The announcement of the cease-fire is by no means a fix to the issue, but it does suggest that the negotiations are going on,” said Alan Gayle, senior strategist at RidgeWorth Capital Management in Richmond, Va., which oversees about $47 billion. “In the U.S., the economic releases were mixed, but generally positive.”

Fewer Americans filed applications for unemployment benefits last week as damage to the labor market caused by superstorm Sandy began to subside. The index of U.S. leading economic indicators rose at a slower pace in October. The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan final index of U.S. consumer sentiment for November rose to 82.7 from 82.6 at the end of last month. Economists projected 84.5 for the gauge.

“We’ve got some interesting pockets of strength in the economy that could prove to be brighter spots next year than a lot of people think, notwithstanding the 'fiscal cliff,' which is the elephant in the room,” said Liz Ann Sonders, the New York- based chief investment strategist at Charles Schwab Corp. (NYSE: SCHW), which has $1.9 trillion in client assets. “There’s a lot of choppiness. Europe is back in the crosshairs.”

Stocks advanced over the previous three days amid better-than-forecast housing data and as President Barack Obama expressed confidence on a budget agreement with Congress.

Salesforce rose 8.8 percent to $158.78. Chief Executive Officer Marc Benioff is signing bigger enterprise agreements that give customers broad access to Salesforce’s software, following the company’s Dreamforce conference in September.

That’s helping to stave off competition from Oracle Corp. (Nasdaq: ORCL), SAP AG (NYSE: SAP) and Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT), which are buying companies that offer business-management tools over the Internet and gaining traction in an area Salesforce pioneered.

HP rallied 2 percent to $11.94. The stock plunged Tuesday as the company’s $8.8 billion writedown tied to the purchase of software maker Autonomy Corp. fueled concern that Chief Executive Officer Meg Whitman and her board aren’t up to the task of engineering a turnaround.

Deere fell 3.7 percent to $82.83. The company said farm- equipment sales in Europe will be unchanged or 5 percent lower in fiscal 2013 and Asia will be little changed due to “softer” economic conditions in India and China. That may undermine the company’s effort to expand the share of sales made outside the U.S. and Canada to 50 percent by 2018.

Zale Corp. (NYSE: ZLC) tumbled 30 percent to $5.21. The operator of the Zales and Piercing Pagoda jewelry chains reported a loss that was wider than analysts estimated.

The S&P 500 will climb back to the level it was trading at before the U.S. presidential election if it crosses a key resistance, according to Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc.

The U.S. equity benchmark on Nov. 16 rebounded from 1,346, a two-thirds Fibonacci retracement level of the rally from June to September, said Dmytro Bondar, a technical markets strategist at RBS in London. While this signals a bullish reversal, the gauge must also breach the one-third retracement, or 1,395, for further gains, he said.

“A new trend was set after a major reversal,” Bondar said. “It clearly indicates that the index is set for recovery, confirmed by candlestick patterns. In the short term, it’s bullish.”

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