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U.S. indexes higher in midday trading; GE soars on deal news

American flags fly in front of the New

American flags fly in front of the New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street on Feb. 10, 2011. Credit: AP / Mark Lennihan

U.S. stocks moved higher Friday, helped by the news that General Electric would be selling its long-struggling lending business.

KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average rose 54 points, or 0.3 percent, to 18,013 as of 12:24 p.m. on Wall Street. The Standard & Poor's 500 index added seven points, or 0.4 percent, to 2,098 and the Nasdaq composite was up 11 points, or 0.2 percent, to 4,985.

The indexes are on pace to end the week solidly higher, which would be the second weekly gain in the row.

GE GETS BACK TO BASICS: General Electric soared 6 percent, the most in the Dow, after the company said it would sell most of its lending arm, known as GE Capital, and shift its focus back to its industrial business.

GE's stock jumped $1.90 to $27.64, making it the biggest gainer in the Dow and the S&P 500.

GE is known for making jet engines, light bulbs and other electronics, but a significant part of the company's business has been financing. GE Capital was a huge business for GE for years, until the financial crisis when new regulations made being non-bank company in the lending business more difficult. GE spun off its credit card business into a new company last year called Synchrony Financial.

EARNINGS: Corporate earnings season is underway, and investors are anxious to see how companies did in the first three months of the year. With the economic sluggishness in the U.S. and Europe, analysts expect first quarter results in the S&P 500 to be down 4.6 percent.

Next week the nation's biggest banks will report their results, including Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Goldman Sachs.

BIG MISS: Software company Citrix Systems fell $1.48, or 2 percent, to $63.17 after the company cut its full year sales and earnings outlook.

CRUDE: Benchmark U.S. crude rose 84 cents to $51.63 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

BONDS, DOLLAR: Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 1.93 percent. The dollar edged down to 120.22 yen from 120.57 yen while the euro fell to $1.0595 from $1.0662.

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