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Mid-Day Update: Stocks Higher; Investors Cheer European Fiscal Deal

Stocks are higher in mid-day trading as investors cheer the European leaders' move to forge closer fiscal ties in an effort to address the continent's debt crisis. Meanwhile, U.S purchases in overseas markets fell to the lowest level since April, thanks to declining demand for crude.

First, consumers have a more positive outlook, according to a gauge of consumer sentiment that reached 67.7 in a preliminary December reading. That compares with 64.1 in November, according to data from the University of Michigan / Thomson Reuters survey. The December reading is the highest since June.

Across the pond, European leaders were unable to secure the backing of all 27 EU members for treaty changes. As a result, the 17 euro-zone nations plus six others will participate in a new inter-governmental agreement on tougher fiscal rules. Britain has already announced that it will not be participating; whereas Hungary, Sweden and the Czech Republic have yet to commit.

The Commerce Department reported that the U.S. trade deficit narrowed by 1.6% in October to $43.5 billion. The deficit has narrowed for four straight months to the lowest monthly trade gap this year. Underlying the report was a sharp upward revision to the trade deficit in September to $44.2 billion from the initial estimate of $43.1 billion. The October trade deficit was close to the consensus forecast of Wall Street economists of $43.6 billion.

In company news:

Often volatile Cell Therapeutics ( CTIC ) shares are down 13% after the company today announced that it has entered into an agreement to sell, subject to customary closing conditions, $20 million of shares of its Series 14 Preferred Stock and warrants to purchase shares of its common stock in a registered offering to two institutional investors.

Shares of Chevron ( CVX ) are higher while Bloomberg reports the Kazakh oil venture led by the U.S. oil company has returned production to normal rates. The news came after a fire at one of its processing plants, the report said.

Wal-Mart Stores ( WMT ) shares are higher while The Wall Street Journal reports the company has started an internal investigation into whether its workers violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The Act prevents bribery overseas. The discount retailer said it had found some possible improper conduct as part of an internal review, the report said.

Shares of Citigroup ( C ) are higher while while Bloomberg reports that the bank is trimming a team of traders who deal in hybrid securities as Chief Executive Officer Vikram Pandit cuts investment jobs at the bank, citing two people familiar with the situation.

Shares of Texas Instruments ( TXN ) are lower after the chipmaker said in its mid-quarter update it expects Q4 revenue in the range of $3.19 to $3.33 bln, lower than its previous view of $3.26 to $3.54 bln. EPS is seen in the range of $0.21 to $0.25 per share, below its previous view of $0.28 to $0.36 per share. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expect the company to post Q4 earnings of $0.48 per share on revenue of $3.40 billion. TXN shares are down 4.8%.

Commodities are down as February gold contracts are up 0.06% to $1,716 an ounce while January crude oil contacts are up 0.07% to $98.40 a barrel.

In energy ETFs, the United States Oil Fund (USO) is up 0.69% to $38.03 and the United States Natural Gas fund (UNG) is down 2.97%, to $7.36.

In precious metal ETFs, the SPDR Gold Trust (GLD) is up 0.51% to $166.81. Market Vectors Gold Miners (GDX) is up 0.87% to $57.31. iShares Silver Trust (SLV) is up 1.6% to $31.19.

Here's where markets stand at mid-day:

-NYSE up 115.44 (+1.57%) to 7,484.96

-DJIA up 161.17 (+1.34%) to 12,158.87

-S&P 500 up 18.19 (+1.47%) to 1,252.54

-Nasdaq up 38.70 (+1.49%) to 2,635.13

GLOBAL SENTIMENT

Nikkei down 1.43%

Hang Seng down 2.73%

Shanghai Composite down 0.63%

FTSE-100 up 0.28%

DAX-30 up 0.91%

MID-DAY NYSE INDEX WATCH

NYSE Energy up 1.8% at 12,428.44

NYSE Financial up 2.2% at 4,098.97

NYSE Health Care up 1.1% at 6,837.34

NYSE Arca Tech 100 up 1.2% at 1,101.50

UPSIDE MOVERS

(+)BCSI, (+44%) Inks deal to be acquired by private equity firm

(+)YUM, (+1.1%) Upgraded to Outperform from Market Perform at Bernstein

(+)PRGO, (+2.2%) Shares to be added to S&P 500 Index

(+)SIRI, (+6.2%) Sirius XM Radio Initiated with a Buy at Citigroup

DOWNSIDE MOVERS

(-)WFR, (-1.2%) Upgraded to Buy from Neutral at Collins Stewart

(-)IVR, (-6.7%) Downgraded to Market Perform from Outperform at FBR Capital

(-)SHLD, (-2.2%) Initiated with an Underperform at Imperial Capital

(-)TXN, (-1.9%) lowered Q4 revenue forecast

(-)LSCC, (-3.5%) sees Deeper Q4 Revenue Drop than Previous Outlook

(-)DD, (-4.9%) Cuts 2011 Earnings View to Below Street

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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