Stocks edge up at the open

U.S. markets advance as investors look to push rally to a fourth straight day.

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By CNNMoney.com staff

In the past six months, how often have you looked at your 401(k) and other investment balances?
  • Every day
  • Once a week
  • Every month or so
  • I can't bear to look

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Stocks rose in the first few minutes of trading Friday as the market attempted to rally for the fourth straight day.

The Dow Jones industrial average, S&P 500 and Nasdaq all made moderate gains.

On Thursday, stocks rose for the third straight day on a better-than-expected retail sales and the fact that General Electric's rating downgrade by Standard & Poor's was limited. Some analysts also credited the guilty plea and jailing of investment banker Bernard Madoff in a multi-billion dollar fraud case .

"It's a strange rally, this one, because it all seemed to start with that internal memo from Citi, but it's gone on all week," said David Jones, chief market strategist at IG Markets, referring to a leaked letter from CEO Vikram Pandit on Tuesday that painted a rosy picture of Citigroup's balance sheet so far this year.

Jones, speaking before the bell, said that investors reacted positively because they're "primed for a rally." But they're "still nervous" about the economy, he said, which could threaten the ongoing, multi-session rally.

"There's a definitely a question of when, not if, the markets are going to turn down again," said Jones.

Economy: Before the start of trading, the Commerce Department reported that the January trade deficit was $36 billion in January. That's the lowest figure since October, 2002, when the trade deficit was $35.2 billion.

A deficit of $38 billion was expected, according to a consensus of economists surveyed by Briefing.com. In December, the deficit was $39.9 billion.

Also, the government reported that import prices were down 0.2%.

Companies:

AOL, a unit of media conglomerate Time Warner, named Google executive Tim Armstrong as its new president. The move was seen by analysts as an indication that Time Warner (TWX, Fortune 500) - the parent of CNNMoney.com - is eager to prepare the ailing AOL for a spinoff or sale.

International: Global markets were higher. In Asia, Tokyo's Nikkei index closed up more than 5%. In Europe, stocks were up in midday trading.

Oil and money: Oil prices rose 19 cents a barrel to $47.22 after a big surge Thursday. The dollar was up versus the yen and the euro, but down against the British pound.  To top of page

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