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US STOCKS-Wall St climbs as Bernanke approval firms

* Bernanke appears safe for approval again as Fed chief

* December existing home sales slide

* Dow up 0.7 pct; S&P 500 up 0.9 pct; Nasdaq up 0.7 pct

* For up-to-the-minute market news, click [STXNEWS/US] (Updates to late afternoon, changes byline)

By Chuck Mikolajczak

NEW YORK, Jan 25 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks moved higher on Monday as signs that Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke would win a U.S. Senate vote for a second term helped lift shares beaten down in last week’s sell-off, such as technology stocks.

U.S. lawmakers looked likely to grudgingly approve Bernanke’s nomination after the White House moved in to defend his record as a crisis-fighter in an effort to rally votes. For details, see [ID:nN25179778]

“The Fed chairman you know is better than the one you don’t, and the market really hates uncertainty,” said Karl Mills, President of Jurika, Mills & Keifer Investment Partners in Oakland, California.

“If there is a perception that the direction of the Fed is going to be increasingly politicized and this is going to become an issue that is beaten around Congress, that will be very bad for the markets in the near term.”

The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI gained 66.05 points, or 0.65 percent, to 10,239.03. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index .SPX rose 9.40 points, or 0.86 percent, to 1,101.16. The Nasdaq Composite Index .IXIC advanced 14.53 points, or 0.66 percent, to 2,219.82.

Both the Dow and Nasdaq briefly turned negative after data from the National Association of Realtors showed sales of previously owned U.S. homes fell at a record pace in December, highlighting the housing market’s reliance on government aid. [ID:nN25221870]

Homebuilder Toll Brothers Inc TOL.N shed 1.5 percent to $18.01. The Dow Jones U.S. Home Construction index .DJUSHB shed 0.4 percent.

But with bellwether Apple Inc AAPL.O set to post quarterly results after the bell, investors bid up big-cap technology shares, which tumbled on Friday as Wall Street had its worst three-day slide in 10 months.

IBM IBM.N climbed 0.8 percent to $126.55 and Hewlett-Packard Co HPQ.N added 2.1 percent to $50.30 as the top performers on the Dow. The PHLX Semiconductor index .SOXX gained 1.8 percent. (Editing by Padraic Cassidy)