Closing Market Report

Star-Bulletin news services

Drop in oil prices
pumps up stocks

NEW YORK >> Stocks rose sharply yesterday, extending their rally for a second session as investors expressed relief over plummeting oil prices following a government report that showed a build in crude inventories. The Dow Jones industrial average had its second straight triple-digit gain, pushing back above the 10,000 mark.

Investors welcomed the government's weekly supply report, although it showed a slide in distillate products. Nonetheless, the resulting plunge in crude futures helped equities bounce back from a lackluster open. The question for stock investors, however, is whether oil prices will continue to fall.

"The move in crude doesn't seem to be much on the surface other than pulling back to the lower end of a range on the way up," said Todd Clark, head of listed equity trading at Wells Fargo Securities. "If it were to prove to be a true break, then certainly it's a much better backdrop for equities. I don't know if that's the case, but two strong back-to-back days on the market suggest two things: One, people are underinvested in equities and two, a lot of people are short the market."

Wall Street has grown increasingly anxious about how soaring energy costs might dent consumer spending ahead of what's expected to be a chillier than normal winter. With oil prices hovering near the $55-per-barrel level for several days, OPEC urged the Bush administration to release more oil from the U.S. strategic reserve to calm the market. But after the release of the inventory data, light, sweet crude for December delivery skidded $2.71 to $52.46 on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

The Dow shot up 113.55, or 1.15 percent, to 10,002.03, following a 138-point rise Tuesday. It was the first time since May 9 and May 12, 2003 that the blue chips have gained more than 100 points in two consecutive sessions. The index also rose above 10,000 for the first time in two weeks.

The broader gauges were also higher. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 14.31, or 1.29 percent, to 1,125.40. The Nasdaq composite index surged 41.20, or 2.14 percent, to 1,969.99.

A jump in orders for big-ticket items offered further encouragement. The Commerce Department said orders to U.S. factories for durable goods -- items expected to last three or more years -- rose 0.2 percent in September, propelled by higher demand for communications equipment. That followed a decline of 0.6 percent in August.

Excluding the volatile transportation sector, orders were up 1.7 percent last month following a 2.8 percent increase in August.

Analysts welcomed the two-day pop in share prices, saying it was partly the product of oversold conditions. Anxiety over lofty oil prices, rising interest rates, decelerating corporate earnings and fear that the upcoming presidential race could be targeted by terrorists, or might not result in a clear winner, have weighed heavily on the markets in recent weeks.

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by Financials.com


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