- The Washington Times - Friday, April 24, 2009

UPDATED:

Wall Street closed Friday with gains following Ford Motor Co.’s better-than-expected results for the first quarter and waiting for the federal government to announce its methodology for evaluating the strength of the largest U.S. financial institutions.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 8,076.29, up 119.23 points. The broader Standard & Poor’s 500-stocks Index was at 866.23, up 14.31 points, and the tech-heavy NASDAQ closed at 1,694.29, up 42.08 points.

U.S. markets were trying to extend a six-week rally that follows 12-year lows in March.

Ford, the country’s No. 2 automaker, reported a net loss of $1.4 billion for the first three months of 2009, compared with a net income of $70 million in the first quarter of 2008.

The company also reported finishing the first quarter with a $21.3 billion cash reserve, reiterated it does not expect to seek a bridge loan from the U.S. government and predicted breaking even in 2011.

Ford stock was up 11.36 percent, to $5 a share.

The markets also gained on quarterly reports from American Express Co. and Microsoft Corp. that were better than expected.

American Express reported a first-quarter net income of $437 million, down 56 percent from a year ago but exceeding analysts’ expectations.

American Express was up 21.75 percent, to $25.53 a share.

Microsoft reported a net income for the third-quarter, ending March 31, of $2.98 billion, 32 percent less than in the 2008 third quarter. However, analysts were upbeat about the company’s cost-saving efforts, including layoffs.

Microsoft was up 10.62 percent, to $20.93 a share.

The government was expected Friday to release the outline of the so-called “stress tests,” which will gauge the health of banks if the recession continues as is over the next couple of years and if it worsens.

However, there was no official word before the markets closed on whether the outline had been released. There has been some speculation that Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner will discuss the outline when he talks with world leaders at the World Bank-International Monetary Fund meeting this weekend in Washington.

Federal regulators were expected Friday to privately discuss with banks the test results, which will be made public May 4.

The weeks-long rally has largely followed the lead of first-quarter reports from the financial industry.

Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Bank of New York Mellon, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. all have had better-than-expected first-quarter reports during the rally.

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