Stocks and exchange traded funds (ETFs) were strongly higher this morning, getting the new year started off on the right foot. Sentiment was boosted by an upbeat report on the manufacturing sector and a deal in the energy sector.

There were a pair of economic reports out this morning:

  • Construction spending fell in November by a more-than-expected 0.6%, pulled lower by the housing and commercial sectors.
  • The Institute for Supply Management reported that their purchasing managers index rose 55.9 in December, from 53.6 in November. The manufacturing sector grew for the fifth consecutive month and December and the 55.9 reading is the highest reading since April 2006, report Kathleen Madigan and Jeff Bater for The Wall Street Journal.

Energy stocks are generally higher this morning after France’s Total SA (NYSE: TOT), Europe’s third-largest oil company, agreed to buy a stake in Chesapeake Energy’s (NYSE: CHK) assets in the biggest U.S. natural gas field for as much as $2.25 billion. Total will pay $800 million for a 25% stake and as much as $1.45 billion over as long as six years by funding 60% of Cheaspeake’s costs in the Barnett shale formation of North Texas, report Tara Patel and Jim Polson for Bloomberg.

The Barnett field produces about half of all shale gas in the United States. Total is up nearly 3% today while Cheaspeake Energy is up about 6.5%. [For more stories about natural gas, see our natural gas category.] The PowerShares Dynamic Energy Exploration & Production ETF (NYSE: PXE) is up nearly 4% this morning.

Oil itself opened the new year with a roaring start. Crude oil rose over $2, climbing above $81 a barrel for the first time in two months. Freezing weather and improving economic prospects around the world bolstered the outlook for demand, reported Mark Shenk for Bloomberg. There were also oil supply concerns coming from both Iran and Russia. [For more stories on oil, see our oil category.] The United States Oil Fund (NYSE: USO) is up nearly 2% this morning.

The Semiconductor Industry Association reported that global semiconductor sales rose 8.5% compared to a year earlier, to $22.6 billion in November. Sales were spurred by stronger sales of HDTVs and improved demand for wireless phones and computers. It was the first time in 2009 that sales exceeded the total of the year-ago numbers, reported MarketWatch. In addition, sales have also increased sequentially for nine straight months. [For more stories on the semiconductor sector, see our semiconductor category.] The SPDR S&P Semiconductor ETF (NYSE: XSD) is up 1.5% this morning.

Tony D’Altorio contributed to this article.

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