Opening Bell Report

The markets opened sharply higher after Warren Buffett offered to back municipal bonds. The Dow surged 149 points to 12,389 while Nasdaq climbed 18 points to 2338.

On the upside

General Motors (NYSE: GM) reported a $38.7 billion loss for 2007, the largest for an automotive company. However, analysts were optimistic about the company's turnaround efforts which included cutting expenses and buying out non-assembly jobs.

Shares of Schering-Plough (NYSE: SGP) rose after the drug maker posted a 40% jump in 4th quarter sales and higher profits that both exceeded expectations.

Shares of 99 Cents Only Stores (NYSE: NDN) posted higher 3rd quarter profits due to improved margins. Analysts also pointed out that consumers tend to shop at discount stores during slow economic times.

On the downside

Shares of Masco (NYSE: MAS) fell after the cabinet maker lowered its sales outlook for the year. Analysts promptly lowered their price targets for the stock.

Expeditors (Nasdaq: EXPD) posted earnings that missed estimates as higher fuel costs cut into margins for the freight and shipping company.

Biotechnology company Vertex Pharmaceuticals (Nasdaq: VRTX) posted a wider loss and announced plans to underwrite 6 million shares.

In the broad market, advancing issues outpaced decliners by a margin of 3 to 1 on the NYSE and by more than 2 to 1 on Nasdaq. The Russell 2000 which tracks small cap stocks rose 7 points to 707.

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