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Stocks buoyed by drop in oil prices

Dow gains 68 points as crude falls below $129 a barrel and sales of new homes show unexpected strength.

May 28, 2008|Joe Bel Bruno | The Associated Press

Stocks advanced Tuesday, boosted by a drop in oil prices and an unexpected gain in new-home sales.

Rebounding from sharp declines last week, the market picked up momentum late in the session as oil prices drifted below $129 a barrel, easing concerns about the effect of soaring energy and food prices on consumers, whose spending accounts for about two-thirds of U.S. economic activity.

With gasoline prices up sharply from a year ago, many on Wall Street are worried that nervous consumers will stop reaching into their wallets for discretionary purchases. That concern was bolstered by fresh data from the Conference Board, which said its consumer confidence index dropped for the fifth straight month to its lowest level since October 1992.

On the housing front, investors appeared to be somewhat reassured after the Commerce Department said sales of new homes rose to a seasonally adjusted rate of 526,000 units in April, up 3% from March's level, which was the weakest pace since 1991. But another report showed home prices accelerating their slide in the first quarter.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 68.72 points, or 0.6%, to 12,548.35. Last week, the Dow lost 3.91% -- its worst showing since February.

Broader indexes posted steeper gains Tuesday. The Standard & Poor's 500 index climbed 9.42 points, or 0.7%, to 1,385.35, and the Nasdaq composite index rose 36.57 points, or 1.5%, to 2,481.24.

The Russell 2,000 index of smaller-company stocks rose 10.29 points, or 1.4%, to 734.39.

Advancing issues led decliners by about 5 to 3 on the New York Stock Exchange.

Yields on government bonds rose Tuesday along with stocks. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note jumped to 3.92% from 3.84% late Friday.

Crude futures fell $3.34 to settle at $128.85 on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Gold fell, while the dollar gained.

Shares of home builders, which tumbled last week, rose on the increase in new-home sales, which overshadowed word that the Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller index showed that home prices fell 14.1% in the first quarter. But such a drop had been expected -- and the April new-home sales number grabbed attention because it was the most recent gauge on the industry.

Lennar, the third-largest U.S. home builder, climbed 60 cents, or 3.6%, to $17.48. Los Angeles-based KB Home rose 16 cents to $20.68.

Standard Pacific soared $1.07, or 48%, to $3.29 after saying a private equity firm would invest at least $530 million in the Irvine-based builder. Even with Tuesday's jump, however, the stock is down 85% in the last year.

Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco President Janet Yellen, who is not a voting member of the central bank, said in remarks prepared for a speech late Tuesday that any interest rate hikes were still a way off. She also reiterated that the economy should pick up in the second half.

In other market highlights:

Vodafone Group fell 35 cents to $32.20. The world's No. 1 cellphone carrier posted a full-year profit and said its chief executive planned to resign.

Blackstone Group and Apollo Management are holding discussions about acquiring specialty chemical maker Chemtura, the Wall Street Journal reported. Chemtura surged 69 cents, or 8.8%, to $8.49. Blackstone rose 37 cents, or 2%, to $18.91.

Flotek Industries fell $1.91, or 10%, to $17.26 after the oil-field service provider cut its full-year profit forecast because of increased costs and delays in the delivery of parts.

General Motors fell 18 cents to $17.42. A Citigroup analyst downgraded the company to "hold" from "buy," saying the automaker might need to raise more capital.

Yahoo slipped 72 cents, or 2.6%, to $27 after its board told shareholders to disregard materials sent out in support of board nominees backed by activist investor Carl Icahn.

Overseas, key stock indexes fell 0.5% in Britain and 0.6% in France. Share rose 1.5% in Japan and 0.1% in Germany.

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