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Closing Bell: Dow Continues Climb Higher; Stocks Buoyed By Strong ADP Report

A day after setting a new all-time high the dow ticked up again today, closing up over 42 points and ending the day at 14,296. At it's intraday high it sailed past the 14,300 mark for the first time ever before coming back below it before the closing bell.

Stocks were lifted in part by a stronger than expected payroll report from ADP. The payroll company reported 198,000 new private-sector jobs created in February. Estimates had called for 170,000. In addition, ADP's tally for January job gains was revised up to 215,000 from 192,000.

JC Penney (JCP) was one of the big losers again today. The stock was down more than 3% for much of the day on new downgrades from Citigroup and Oppenheimer. Meanwhile, there's word that Penney's CEO may soon be shown the door. The Wall Street Journal reports that if Ron Johnson can't turn things around, either he'll be replaced, or the board will put the company up for sale. Board members include Steve Roth who just unloaded $55 million dollars in Penney stock this week, and Bill Ackman who helped install Johnson as CEO last year.

Best Buy (BBY) posted gains today just shy of 2.5%. The stock moved higher on an upgrade form Jefferies. Analyst Daniel Binder says he sees Best Buy cutting costs and fixing its business model. He also boosted his price target from $11 to $24. Last Friday, Best Buy reported a .9% rise in revenue for stores open at least 14 months. That's the company's best performance in nearly three years.

Staples (SPLS), the office superstore, missed estimates when it released earnings this morning. Staples says it earned 12-cents a share. That's down from 41-cents a year earlier. Adding insult to injury, the company may be facing for more competition in the near future as Office Depot and OfficeMax merge. Staples raised its quarterly dividend, by a penny from 11-cents to 12, a 9% increase.

There was a big bang today at Big Lots (BIG). The company shot up 6% after reporting quarterly earnings. The discount chain made $2.09 a share up from $1.75 a year ago and beating estimates for $1.98. The company says sales were particularly strong around Black Friday.

Microsoft (MSFT) shares were lower today after the European Union took unprecedented action against the software-maker. The EU'S anti-trust authority is fining the company $731 million. The authority says Microsoft fell back on a promise made in 2009 and failed to offer users a choice of web browser. This is the first time the EU has fined a company saying it failed to meet its obligations. The unit says the penalty is designed to be a deterrent to other companies in similar situations.

PetSmart (PETM) will be reporting after today's closing bell. Analysts say PetSmart may be one of the few big box stores that is resistant to show-rooming. That's because it not only offers products you can buy online, but also specializes in services like grooming and vet care. PetSmart stock popped last spring, and has been trading relatively flat since then.

Also this afternoon, we'll get to hear whether Speedway Motor Sports (TRK )is on the right track, when it reports earnings. It's been a bumpy year for the company, but shares were up more than 3% yesterday. Speedway Motor Sports operates a number of race tracks around the country. It just inked a deal with the National Rifle Association to hold a race known as the NRA 500 in Texas next month.

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