Opening Bell Report

The markets opened higher to extend yesterday's gains as analysts dissected the latest manufacturing report, the fourth consecutive monthly decline. Hope for another interest rate cut lifted bonds as well as the Dow which rose 18 points to 12,445. Nasdaq climbed 17 points to 2345 on the strength of tech stocks.

On the upside

Department store retailer J.C. Penney (NYSE: JCP) posted lower revenues and profits, but beat estimates. Investors were cheered by a modest growth outlook in the low single digits.

London-based Reed Elsevier (NYSE: RUK) which operates LexisNexis offered to buy ChoicePoint (NYSE: CPS) for $4.1 billion including the assumption of $600 million in debt.

Itron (Nasdaq: ITRI) raised its full-year outlook. The company makes meter reading equipment for utilities.

On the downside

Novatel Wireless (Nasdaq: NVTL) posted higher 4th quarter profits, but investors were disappointed by its outlook for the current quarter.

Shares of McCormick & Schmick's Seafood Restaurants (Nasdaq: MSSR) fell after the restaurant operator lowered its outlook for 2008.

Psychiatric Solutions (Nasdaq: PSYS) raised its full-year outlook, but warned about its 1st quarter results as the company works on expanding its capacity.

In the broad market, advancing issues outpaced decliners by a margin of nearly 2 to 1 on the NYSE and by more than 2 to 1 on Nasdaq. The Russell 2000 which tracks small cap stocks gained 7 points to 717.

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