Stocks move higher ahead of 3-day break
NEW YORK » Wall Street ended a winning, holiday-shortened week with a quiet advance yesterday as investors awaited the release of March employment figures and remained cautiously optimistic after their recent buying streak. For the week, the major indexes showed gains each day and returned to positive territory for the year.
There was a subdued tone to trading yesterday as investors adjusted portfolios ahead of a three-day weekend; the stock market is closed for Good Friday. Investors were particularly careful because they won't be able to trade on today's U.S. Labor Department's employment report until the stock market reopens Monday morning.
There was little reaction to the department's report that first-time claims for unemployment benefits rose to their highest weekly level since March 3, which indicated companies might be struggling to cope with sluggish growth in the national economy.
"The market went up on fumes this week," said Philip S. Dow, managing director of equity strategy at RBC Dain Rauscher. "Nobody has any wild expectations to the positive for the jobs report. But, barring some kind of negative report, I still think we'll see the market tread water."
The Dow rose 30.15, or 0.24 percent, to 12,560.20.
Broader stock indicators also made gains. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 4.39, or 0.31 percent, to 1,443.76, and the Nasdaq composite index advanced 12.65, or 0.51 percent, to 2,471.34. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies rose 2.56, or 0.32 percent, to 813.35.
Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by about 5 to 3 on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume came to 1.25 billion shares compared with 1.4 billion shares traded Wednesday.
Bonds fell ahead of the employment report; the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note rose to 4.68 percent from 4.65 percent late Wednesday. The bond market will be open for an abbreviated session today.
The dollar was mixed against other major currencies, and sank to two-year lows against the euro ahead of the long weekend and amid concerns about interest rates. Gold prices rose during the session.
Oil prices settled down slightly a day after a modest ease in global political tensions. Prices had advanced in recent weeks in part amid unease over Iran's now-ended detention of British sailors and marines. Investors are now focused on energy inventories and demand, and sent a barrel of light, sweet crude down 10 cents to $64.28 on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
DaimlerChrysler AG shares surged $3.81, or 4.7 percent, to $84.80 after billionaire investor Kirk Kerkorian's Tracinda Corp. approached the German automaker's board about acquiring its U.S.-based Chrysler division. He has held stakes in Chrysler since the 1990s, a decade after he lost out on a deal to acquire the full company. Kerkorian said he would offer Chrysler a stake in the company.
The bid also sent shares of General Motors Corp. up 87 cents, or 2.8 percent, to $31.90. Kerkorian was previously GM's largest individual shareholder, before selling his stake in December.