Stocks Continue to Climb as Companies Exceed Expectations

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Most sectors were trading higher in the broader market. Top gainers included conglomerates, consumer cyclicals and non-cyclicals. Technology shares were also edging higher. The basic materials was the lone sector in the red.

Earlier on Friday, the S&P 500 once again crossed the 1,500 level. On Thursday, the S&P 500 managed to breach that mark a number of times during the day. Doreen Mogavero, founder of Mogavero Lee & Co., said "1,500 was the target and traders wanted to see if we could get there this year and we'd gotten there earlier in the year. I don't think you can question the momentum of this market."

Mogavero said there have been two camps, both polarized, on theories of where the market is headed from current levels. Some traders have been feeling that the market is poised to really take off for a "huge new secular bull market" and others say a pullback is due.

December new-home sales figures were the only U.S. data released Friday. The Census Bureau said new-home sales fell to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 369,000 in December from an upwardly revised 398,000 in November. Economists, on average, were expecting December new-home sales of 385,000.

"New-home sales are volatile, revision prone, and one of the less well-measured government series," said John Ryding and Conrad DeQuadros, the founders of research firm RDQ Economics. "Although the decline (from the significantly upwardly revised November reading) comes as a disappointment, it does little to change the picture of a housing recovery."

Gold for February delivery fell $13.30 to settle at $1,656.60 an ounce at the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange, while March crude oil futures shed 7 cents to close at $95.88 a barrel.

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The benchmark 10-year Treasury slumped 26/32 to raise the yield to 1.949%. The dollar was dipping by 0.29%, according to the U.S. dollar index .

In corporate news, E*Trade Financial (ETFC) shares climbed 0.6% after the company reported a wider-than-expected quarterly loss and a disappointing revenue as daily average revenue trades declined.

Starbucks(SBUX) , the coffee chain, said Thursday that fiscal first-quarter profit rose 13% and global same-store sales in the quarter climbed 6% . Shares popped 4.1%.

Select Comfort (SCSS) shares plunged 18% after the bed manufacturer and retailer posted earnings that missed estimates.

Select Comfort rival Tempur-Pedic( TPX ) beat fourth-quarter revenue and earnings expectations despite seeing profit decline by 58% amid softer mattress sales and margins. Shares surged 6.4%.

Halliburton( HAL) shares added 5.1% after the oil-services company posted stronger-than-forecast fourth-quarter results. The company said it predicts that in 2013, North America rig counts will improve from the fourth quarter but be down slightly compared to 2012.

Threshold Pharmaceuticals (THLD) shares closed up 1.2%, after having jumped more than 10% during the session following the biotechnology company's announcement that it was receiving a $30 million milestone payment from Merck.