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Stocks open mixed as job losses rise

April 04, 2009|Associated Press

NEW YORK — Not even grisly job losses could get in the stock market's way Friday.

The Dow Jones industrial average clawed higher to finish above 8,000 for the first time in nearly two months, and logged its biggest four-week gain -- an advance of 21% -- since 1933.

The 30-stock average also marked its first streak of four consecutive weekly gains since the fall of 2007, when the index shot above 14,000 to its all-time high.

Wall Street's newfound confidence swelled this week on better-than-expected economic data, a relaxation in bank accounting rules and reassurances from world leaders that they will keep propping up the global economy.

The Labor Department's March unemployment report Friday was the week's last big hurdle. The job numbers, grim but not unexpectedly so, failed to derail an emerging sense of optimism that the economy may be beginning to right itself. The Dow finished the week up 3.1%.

Although many investors are looking ahead to an eventual recovery, others say Wall Street might be just as shortsighted now as it was when it was panicking. Potential pitfalls lie ahead not just in the job market, which has shed 5.1 million jobs since December 2007, but also in corporate earnings reports and outlooks that start pouring in next week.

"We've run way too high here, way too fast," said Joe Saluzzi, co-head of equity trading at Themis Trading.

The Dow on Friday climbed 39.51 points, or 0.5%, to 8,017.59 -- the index's highest close since Feb. 9. The blue-chip gauge is 22% above its nearly 12-year low of 6,547.05 reached March 9.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 8.12 points, or 1%, to 842.50. The Nasdaq composite index jumped 19.24, or 1.2%, to 1,621.87.

The Russell 2,000 index of smaller companies gained 1.3%.

About two stocks rose for every one that fell on the New York Stock Exchange.

Yields on Treasury bonds rose along with stocks as some investors sold government obligations in favor of riskier assets. The benchmark 10-year T-note jumped to 2.9% from 2.75% on Thursday.

Traders have been emboldened in recent weeks by better-than-expected readings on economic indicators tied to housing, banking and manufacturing.

In another positive sign, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said in a speech Friday in Charlotte, N.C., that the Fed's strategy to ease the financial crisis appeared to be working.

A looming threat to the market is the start of first-quarter earnings season, which gets underway Tuesday. Expectations for the quarter are already low, but hints that conditions are deteriorating could easily kill the rally.

Overseas, key stock indexes fell 2.3% in Britain and 1.1% in France. Shares rose 0.3% in Japan and 0.1% in Germany.

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