Stocks up as oil falls, eases inflation fears
NEW YORK » Wall Street rallied yesterday as oil prices fell back and alleviated some of investors' concerns about accelerating inflation. The Dow Jones industrials gained 130 points.
Oil's retreat helped soothe some of Wall Street's worries about inflation's impact on consumer spending. Crude briefly reached a new trading high of $126.40, but investors seemed shy, for the time being at least, to add to oil's huge gain of nearly $10 last week. Light, sweet crude oil fell $1.73 to settle at $124.23 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
"This market does seem to be reacting positively to any sort of easing we see in the energy patch," said Craig Peckham, market strategist at Jefferies & Co.
Investors also got some encouraging news about the credit crisis from London-based HSBC Holdings PLC, which said its first-quarter profits were up from a year ago although the global banking company took a $3.2 billion write-down on subprime mortgage assets in the United States. The company did echo other assessments that the U.S. was likely to fall into recession this year.
JPMorgan Chase & Co. CEO Jamie Dimon said at a conference yesterday he estimates the credit market crisis is 75 percent over, but that the recession is just beginning.
Yesterday's gains showed investors are still willing to lay some bets, although some market watchers said Wall Street will still likely see stocks fluctuate as investors try to determine the economy's direction. Yesterday's advance follows a week in which the major indexes all fell as worries about the impact of inflation weighed on investors.
Peckham said some of the buying was a natural move higher after last week's decline, in which the Dow lost 2.4 percent and the S&P 500 declined 1.81 percent.
"This market, after having had a pretty rough last week, is prone to drawing in some more value-seekers," he said.
The Dow rose 130.43, or 1.02 percent, to 12,876.31.
Broader stock indicators also rose. The Standard & Poor's 500 index advanced 15.30, or 1.10 percent, to 1,403.58, and the Nasdaq composite index rose 42.97, or 1.76 percent, to 2,488.49. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies rose 13.18, or 1.83 percent, to 733.23.
Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by more than 2 to 1 on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume came to a light 1.01 billion shares.
Bond prices dipped. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which moves opposite its price, rose to 3.80 percent from 3.78 percent late Friday. After an early strong start, the dollar ended mixed against most other major currencies, while gold prices fell.
Hewlett Packard Co. fell $2.49, or 5.1 percent, to $46.64 after the technology company confirmed it is in talks with Electronic Data Systems Corp. about a possible acquisition. Shares of EDS spiked $5.27, or 28 percent, to $24.13.
MBIA Inc. posted a $2.41 billion first-quarter loss, as the struggling bond insurer took heavy charges to write down the value of liabilities amid continued deterioration in the credit markets. The stock rose 47 cents, or 5 percent, to $9.90 following comments from the company on the strength of its balance sheet.
Research In Motion Ltd. rose $8.93, or 6.7 percent, to $141.70 as the handheld electronics maker introduced its first major new BlackBerry model in more than a year.