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Stocks Post Healthy Gains on Optimism Over Job News

Securities: Better-than- expected employment figures in November send Dow up 136. Other indexes also get a boost, while bond prices fall for the first time in over a week.

December 05, 1998|From Times Wire Services

Stocks rose Friday after a government report showed the U.S. added more jobs than expected in November, increasing optimism that consumer spending will fuel corporate profit growth.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 136.46 points, or 1.5%, to 9,016.14. Even with the turnaround, for the week the Dow was down 3.3%, the S&P 500 dropped 1.3% from the previous Friday's record, and Nasdaq lost 0.7%.

Regional banks such as Bank One led the gain on the prospect of stronger demand for credit. Technology companies such as Microsoft and Lucent Technologies also rallied.

"The jobs numbers give us additional confidence that things will probably be better than most people anticipated," said Howard Kornblue, a money manager for Pilgrim America Group. "We're looking for some pretty decent earnings growth next year."

The Standard & Poor's 500 index jumped 26.60 points, or 2.3%, to close at 1,176.74. The Nasdaq composite index, packed with technology shares, climbed 48.83 points, or 2.5%, to 2,003.16. The Russell 2,000 index of smaller stocks rallied 3.37 points, or 0.9%, to 398.37.

Almost twice as many shares rose as fell on the New York Stock Exchange.

Volume on the Big Board totaled 709 million shares, below the daily average of 749 million for the last three months.

Bond prices fell for the first time in eight sessions. The benchmark 30-year Treasury yield rose to 5.04%, from 5% on Thursday.

In currency trading, the dollar rose to 118.95 Japanese yen, from 118.60 on Thursday.

The Labor Department said the economy added 267,000 jobs last month, exceeding analysts' forecasts of 169,000 jobs. The unemployment rate fell to 4.4%; it had been expected to stay unchanged at 4.6%.

Concerned that slowing economies abroad are taking a toll on the U.S., analysts have trimmed estimates for fourth-quarter earnings growth to 5.2% from 9.3% at the beginning of October, according to First Call. Estimates for all of 1999, though, remain little changed at 18.8%.

Among Friday's highlights:

* Regional banks gained on optimism that a growing economy means that consumers will seek more credit. Bank One gained $2.25 to $54.38, Wachovia rose $2.63 to $89.50 and Wells Fargo climbed $1.56 to $37.13.

BankBoston rose $2.31 to $41.25, after plunging 8.7% on Thursday. The stock fell amid signs Brazil's economy is heading for recession. BankBoston gets about one-fifth of its profit from Latin America.

* Companies that benefit from consumer spending rallied on the jobs report.

Growth "is going to preserve jobs, and that enables people to spend money to keep the [economic] cycle going," said Kornblue, who recently bought shares of toy maker Mattel and insurer American General for his Pilgrim MagnaCap Fund.

Wal-Mart Stores rose $1.69 to $73.19. Auto stocks rallied, sending Ford Motor up $1.25 to $56.38. General Motors rose $1.50 to $69.50.

* Ubid jumped $33 to $48 in its first day of trading. The Elk Grove Village, Ill.-based online auctioneer raised a greater-than-expected $23.7 million in an initial stock sale, providing further evidence of investors' strong interest in Internet issues.

Ubid was formed a little more than a year ago by Torrance-based Creative Computers, which sells computer hardware and software through catalogs.

The company still owns 82% of Ubid, though it plans to distribute its remaining Ubid stock to Creative Computers shareholders next year.

Creative Computers, which had quintupled from a recent low Oct. 8, sank $9 to $26.25.

* Semiconductor stocks added to their gains in the final hour of trading after the Semiconductor Industry Assn. said computer chip sales rose 6.2% in October from September's level. Intel rose $6.81 to $116.31, Advanced Micro Devices gained $1.88 to $31.38. Micron Technology rallied $3.75 to $50.13, a 52-week high.

Demand for computers and related equipment tends to rise in a buoyant economy as companies boost their spending on gear that increases efficiency.

Microsoft, the world's biggest software maker, gained $5.25 to $127.38. Cisco Systems rose $2.06 to $78.25.

* Lucent jumped $7.38 to $95.75 after the world's largest phone equipment maker told analysts and investors in a closed-door meeting that demand for its products is strong and all of its major plants are running at capacity.

* Johnson & Johnson rose $2.19 to $81.75 a day after the world's fifth-largest drug maker said it will cut 4,100 jobs and close 36 plants because of sluggish sales growth.

Overseas, Japan's Nikkei stock average fell 0.4%, Germany's DAX index and Britain's FTSE-100 finished nearly unchanged, and France's CAC-40 rose 0.1%.

Market Roundup, C4

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