clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Stocks manage to extend gains to 2nd day

NEW YORK — Focused on an economic recovery, investors shook off disappointing news and kept Wall Street's summer rally going.

Investors sent stocks higher for a second day in a row Thursday, giving all the major indexes a moderate boost and adding to the gains that followed upbeat comments from the Federal Reserve a day earlier.

Financial, technology and energy companies were among the big winners, while stocks in defensive, or relatively safer, industries like health care fell. Retailers declined after a worse-than-expected report on retail sales.

Meanwhile, Treasury prices rose after the government had a successful auction of 30-year bonds. The Treasury Department issued a total of $75 billion of debt this week as part of its ongoing efforts to fund the government's stimulus programs, and investors were relieved that the market was able to absorb such a huge supply.

Analysts said Wall Street's showing Thursday was a sign of the market's resilience in light of economic reports that suggested the recovery could be slowed by a weak consumer. Investors seemed to look past the latest news and focus on the Fed's more upbeat assessment of the economy. Stocks soared Wednesday after the Fed said the economy was "leveling out," not just slowing its decline.

"You're not seeing people giving up on this economy," said Keith Springer, president of Capital Financial Advisory Services.

Among the day's reports, the Commerce Department said retail sales fell 0.1 percent in July, significantly worse than the 0.7 percent increase economists expected. Retail sales are considered a strong indicator of economic recovery because consumer spending accounts for more than two-thirds of all economic activity.

A weekly report on unemployment also came in worse than projected. The Labor Department said the number of newly laid-off workers filing claims for unemployment benefits rose unexpectedly to a seasonally adjusted 558,000, from 554,000 the previous week. Analysts were expecting new claims to drop to 545,000.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 36.58, or 0.4 percent, to 9,398.19 after rising 120 Wednesday in response to the Fed's statement.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 6.92, or 0.7 percent, to 1,012.73, while the Nasdaq composite index rose 10.63, or 0.5 percent, to 2,009.35.

Advancing stocks outpaced losers by 2 to 1 on the New York Stock Exchange, where consolidated volume fell to a light 5.3 billion shares from 5.5 billion shares a day earlier.

In other trading, the Russell 2000 index of smaller companies rose 3.02, or 0.5 percent, to 575.19.

Financial stocks led the day's gains, buoyed by news that the hedge fund run by John Paulson bought about 168 million shares of Bank of America Corp. Paulson foresaw the distress in subprime mortgages and reaped billions by betting against the related securities, so his purchases of Bank of America stock are seen as a vote of confidence in the bank's future.

"He gives a lot of credibility because he certainly saw the danger on the credit side," said Anton Schutz, portfolio manager of Burnham Financial Industries Fund and Burnham Financial Services Fund.

Bank of America rose $1.07, or 6.7 percent, to $17. Regional banks also rose significantly after tumbling earlier in the week on downbeat comments from an analyst that raised doubts about some banks' ability to improve their earnings in the second half of the year.

Texas Instruments Inc. rose 66 cents, or 2.8 percent, to $24.54 after an analyst upgraded the stock. That helped lift other technology stocks.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. rose $1.37, or 2.7 percent, to $51.88 after the world's largest retailer reported better-than-expected second quarter earnings. Wal-Mart also raised the low end of its profit guidance, saying it expects shoppers to continue to be attracted by its low-priced items.

Other retail stocks were mixed following the government's weak sales report. Macy's Inc. slipped 25 cents to $16.15, while Best Buy Co. rose 51 cents to $37.01.

Investors have sent stocks soaring the past few weeks as improving corporate profits and signs of life in the troubled housing industry gave the market hope that the economy is healing. The Fed's comments Wednesday affirmed for investors that their recent bets had been warranted.

Still, with the news flow tapering and trading light amid the summer slowdown on Wall Street, analysts warn it might be difficult to keep the market's momentum going.

The S&P 500 index has risen 15.2 percent in little more than a month and 49.7 percent since it fell to a 12-year low in early March.

Treasurys rose higher after the successful auction of 30-year bonds. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which moves opposite its price, fell to 3.61 percent from 3.72 percent late Wednesday.

The dollar fell against the euro and the British pound, while gold and other metal prices rose.

Light, sweet crude rose 36 cents to settle at $70.52 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Earlier Thursday, Asian markets closed higher on the Fed's statement, while European markets rose after new data showed recessions have ended in Germany and France.

Japan's Nikkei stock average rose 0.8 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng index jumped 2.1 percent. Britain's FTSE 100 gained 0.8 percent, Germany's DAX index rose 1.0 percent, and France's CAC-40 rose 0.5 percent.