9:00am (EST)

The bulls got some good news yesterday in the form of the Dubai $10 billion “bailout” package and the Dow’s advance could have been more if Exxon Mobil (XOM, $69.69, down $3.14) didn’t drop 4%.  The company said it would acquire XTO Energy (XTO, $47.86, up $6.37) for $30 billion or so and Exxon’s Dow impact accounted for 23 negative points. 

Still, the Dow rose 29 points to close at 10,501, its highest close since October 1st, 2008.  The S&P 500 added 7 points and closed at 1,114, while the Nasdaq gained 21 to finish at 2,212.

We would love to see Exxon drop to $66-$67 this week or next.

The Financial sector got a small lift after Citigroup (C, $3.70, down $0.25) said it would repay the $20 billion of the $45 billion it received last year from the government’s bailout package.  Citigroup tanked of course, but JPMorgan (JPM, $41.77, up $0.81), Goldman Sachs (GS, $166.10, up $0.10) and Morgan Stanley (MS, $30.17, up $0.39) got small pops.  Note: The government also will sell its 35% stake in Citigroup.

Wells Fargo (WFC, $25.49, up $0.08) must have felt left out because after the bell yesterday they announced they were repaying $25 billion.  Both Citigroup and Wells have followed Bank of America’s (BAC, $15.63, flat) lead as they recently announced they were repaying the $45 billion in bailout money it owed taxpayers.

Well, well, well…Apollo Group (APOL, $62.06, up $5.48) has agreed to settle a lawsuit over how it paid recruiters for its University of Phoenix subsidiary.  The company said it expects to pay $80 million in the settlement.  Wow!  Somebody didn’t want somebody talking.  We covered the firm’s shady practices and mentioned this “boiler room” atmosphere in our October 28th write-up “Apollo Group Has A Skeleton Or Two“.

Ahead of the opening bell, Dow futures are lower by 45 points to 10,392, while the S&P 500 futures are off 6 to 1,102.  The Nasdaq futures are down 9 to 1,799.  Stock futures got worse after the release of the producer price index report.  The index increased 1.8% versus the expected increase of 0.8%.

Before we go, we continue to notice the gains in Imax (IMAX, $12.93, up $0.35) which hit another 52-week high yesterday.  We have been pounding the table on this stock and we have been recommending different options trades on this one all year long.  In case you haven’t heard, Avatar is opening up this Friday.