Stocks Advance, Led by Techs

Investors Wednesday weighed a downbeat view of the economy from the Fed, data on inflation and housing starts, and a new record high for crude oil

Stocks closed higher Wednesday after reversing an earlier drop. Technology issues were among the session's best performers, aided by a strong earnings report from Hewlett-Packard (HPQ). Financial stocks rose later in the day, as minutes from Federal Reserve January policy meetings apparently supported hopes for further interest rate cuts. Stocks tied to precious metals and oil got a lift from gains in commodities futures, as crude oil topped the $100 mark once again to close at a new record.

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