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Wall Street shakes off weak data to post gain


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POSTED: Friday, February 06, 2009

NEW YORK » Wall Street is getting a little daring once again.

Investors shook off weak economic readings yesterday and placed bets on retail and technology stocks after several companies posted better-than-expected sales and profit reports. The major indexes gained more than 1 percent, including the Dow Jones industrial average, which rose 106 points.

Retailers including Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Macy's Inc. turned in better-than-expected sales figures for January.

The technology-laden Nasdaq composite index led the major market indicators after Akamai Technologies Inc. said its fourth-quarter earnings rose a better-than-expected 13 percent as more customers signed up for its Internet traffic-management services.

The reports helped the market overcome a flurry of bad economic news. Unemployment benefits claims rose last week to a 26-year high, and factory orders fell for the fifth straight month in December. However productivity rose by 3.2 percent in the fourth quarter, more than twice what analysts expected.

Investors are bracing for today's January employment report from the U.S. Labor Department. The monthly reading is one of the most important economic indicators because rising unemployment cuts into how much consumers spend.

The Dow industrials rose 106.41, or 1.34 percent, to 8,063.07. The Dow fell as much as 111 points early in the session.

Broader stock indicators also rose. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 13.62, or 1.64 percent, to 845.85, and the Nasdaq composite index rose 31.19, or 2.06 percent, to 1,546.24.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies rose 6.60, or 1.47 percent, to 455.08.

Advancing issues outnumbered losers by about 2 to 1 on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume came to 1.63 billion shares.

The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which moves opposite to its price, fell to 2.92 percent from 2.94 percent late Wednesday. The yield on the three-month T-bill was flat at 0.28 percent from late Wednesday.

Wal-Mart rose $2.14, or 4.6 percent, to $48.56, while Macy's rose 43 cents, or 5.2 percent, to $8.75.

Among tech stocks, Akamai rose $2.56, or 18 percent, to $16.73.

The dollar was mostly higher against other major currencies. Gold prices also climbed.

Light, sweet crude rose 85 cents to settle at $41.17 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.