Closing Market Report

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NEW YORK >> A succession of better-than-expected earnings reports sent stocks climbing for a second day as investors grew more convinced that the worst is over for the economy and Wall Street. A surge in consumer confidence fed the buying momentum, and allowed the market to overcome several waves of profit-taking.

Upbeat profit reports again flowed in from big companies, this time, Northrop Grumman, DuPont and Bristol-Myers Squibb.

"We basically are on a bit more solid footing than we have been in quite a while," said Steven Goldman, chief market strategist at Weeden & Co. in Greenwich, Conn.

And today's uptick in consumer sentiment is "a good reason for people to be enthusiastic," said Brian Bruce, director of global investments at PanAgora Asset Management in Boston.

Advancing issues narrowly outnumbered decliners about 7 to 6 on the New York Stock Exchange. Volume was moderate.

The Dow Jones industrial average closed up 31.38, or 0.4 percent, at 8,502.99. Yesterday, the Dow climbed 165.26.

The broader market also advanced. The Nasdaq composite index rose 9.06, or 0.6 percent, to 1,471.30. The Standard & Poor's 500 index advanced 3.00, or 0.3 percent, to 917.84. The Russell 2000 index rose 0.58, or 0.2 percent, to 395.78.

The price of the Treasury's 10-year note was down 3/16 point, while its yield rose to 3.93 percent from 3.91 percent yesterday. The price of two-year Treasury notes were unchanged, but their yield rose to1.60 percent from 1.59 percent yesterday.

Today's economic news was encouraging. The Conference Board reported that consumer confidence rose sharply in April as war worries evaporated due to the swift outcome in Iraq. The industry group said its Consumer Confidence Index rose to 81.0 from a revised 61.4 in March and much better than the reading of 70 that analysts predicted.

Investors pay close attention to the mood of consumers, whose spending accounts for two-thirds of the economy.

There was also good news about U.S. workers' wages and benefits, which the Labor Department said rose by 1.3 percent in the first quarter. It was the biggest increase in nearly 13 years and almost double the 0.7 percent gain seen in the fourth quarter of 2002.

The market sees an increase in workers' pay as a potential boost for the economy; consumer spending accounts for two-thirds of the gross domestic product.

Over the past few weeks, companies have reported surprisingly strong profits, prompting investors to buy stocks with renewed confidence.

Among the gainers, Northrop Grumman climbed $2.76 to $89.29 after posting first-quarter earnings that were 35 cents a share higher than Wall Street expected and boosting its 2003 outlook.

DuPont rose 66 cents to $42.39 on quarterly profits that surpassed analysts' expectations by 7 cents a share. Bristol-Myers Squibb advanced 84 cents to $25.20 after reporting earnings that were a penny a share higher than analysts anticipated.

Overseas, France's CAC-40 and Britain's FTSE 100 each declined 0.3 percent, while Germany's DAX index lost 1.5 percent. Japanese financial markets were closed for a national holiday.

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