Stock rally extends into a second day
NEW YORK » Wall Street rallied for a second session yesterday as investors brushed aside mixed signals on inflation a day after the Federal Reserve said it was concerned about rising prices. The Dow Jones industrial average surged nearly 92 points and the Nasdaq composite index, battered during the market's May slump, turned positive for the year.
While manufacturing activity slowed in May, high energy and materials costs drove a sharp uptick in prices paid and fueled fears that the Fed could continue lifting interest rates to contain inflation. But a downward revision to growth in first-quarter wage costs suggested prices were more subdued.
"The trend today looks like confusion to me," said Scott Merritt, U.S. equities strategist for JPMorgan Asset Management. Although today's job growth data from the Labor Department is expected to provide more clarity on the economy, Merritt said a benign report would do little to help the market's uncertainty.
"The employment report will only have an impact if it's significantly to the upside or downside," he said. "Otherwise it will create more confusion -- and that's what we're going to get until (the Fed's June 28-29 meeting)."
Meanwhile, strong May sales boosted the retail sector and bolstered optimism about the consumer picture. Oil prices fell further on data showing increased domestic reserves and helped accelerate the market's advance.
The Dow climbed 91.97, or 0.82 percent, to 11,260.28. On Wednesday, the Dow gained 74 points after dropping 184 points on Tuesday.
Broader stock indicators surged. The Standard & Poor's 500 index gained 15.62, or 1.23 percent, to 1,285.71; the Nasdaq surged 40.98, or 1.88 percent, to 2,219.86, returning to positive territory for 2006.
Bonds recovered from Wednesday's dive, with the yield on the 10-year Treasury note down to 5.1 percent from 5.13 percent late in the previous session.
Overseas stock markets recouped earlier losses driven by worries that rising U.S. interest rates will choke global demand. Britain's FTSE 100 gained 0.45 percent, Germany's DAX added 0.26 percent and France's CAC-40 was higher by 0.35 percent.
Asian markets fared somewhat better, with Japan's Nikkei index edging up 0.24 percent from three-month lows. However, stocks in Hong Kong tumbled 1.34 percent and India's Sensex plunged 3.15 percent.
Investors returned their focus to inflation data Wednesday after minutes from the Fed's May 10 meeting said its inflation expectations had increased.