Stocks make small gain after jumpy session


POSTED: Thursday, March 26, 2009

NEW YORK » Wall Street is showing it still has some moxie.

Investors shook off an attack of nerves that wiped out a big early advance yesterday and then barreled back into the market right before the close.

Trading was extremely erratic. The Dow Jones industrials rose as much as 203 points in response to upbeat economic data, then fell nearly 110 during the afternoon before closing up 90.

Weak demand during an auction of government debt stirred up worries about how easily Washington will be able to raise money to fund its economic rescue program, market analysts said. The fear in the market is that the government might not be able to easily raise the hundreds of billions of dollars it needs.

The day proves that Wall Street remains fragile despite a two-week rally.

“;There was a mix of good and bad news and at the end of the day the good news won out,”; said Alan Skrainka, chief market strategist at Edward Jones. “;It's a jumpy market.”;

Some analysts said the late surge — which lifted the Dow nearly 178 points, or 2.35 percent in the last hour — was due in part to short covering. That's a trend caused by investors who had borrowed and sold stock on a bet the market would fall, and who have to cover their positions when they see the market starting to turn higher.

“;I think we're vulnerable to the changing views of the market over very short time periods,”; said Jim King, chief investment officer at National Penn Investors Trust Co. in Reading, Pa.

The Dow closed up 89.94, or 1.17 percent, at 7,749.81, while the Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 7.63, or 0.95 percent, to 813.88. The Dow is up 18.4 percent since March 9, right before the start of the market's rally, while the S&P 500 is up 20.3 percent.

The Nasdaq composite index rose 12.43, or 0.82 percent, to 1,528.95, and the Russell 2000 index, which tracks small company stocks, rose 9.74, or 2.34, to 426.52.

Bond prices fell after the auction of $34 billion in 5-year Treasury notes. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which moves opposite its price, jumped to 2.77 percent from 2.71 percent late Tuesday. The yield on the three-month T-bill rose to 0.19 percent from 0.17 percent Tuesday.

Oil fell $1.21 to settle at $52.77 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.