- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 2, 2009

NEW YORK | Investors kicked off the stock market’s third quarter with a moderate gain after getting some reassuring data on manufacturing and housing.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose by 0.7 percent Wednesday, rebounding from the previous day’s sell-off that was triggered by a drop in consumer confidence. Other indexes made moderate advances as well.

The buying was tempered by caution ahead of Thursday’s June jobs report.

“That’s going to be the big one,” said Chris Johnson, president of Johnson Research Group. “People are keeping their eye on the unemployment figure.”

The Labor Department is expected to report another uptick in the unemployment rate to 9.6 percent, according to economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters. Growing unemployment has been keeping investors nervous about consumer spending - a major driver of growth.

Much of Wednesday’s data were positive, including a report showing more stable manufacturing activity in the United States and another indicating the fourth straight monthly rise in pending home sales. Stocks also got a boost from European markets, which rose with similarly upbeat manufacturing data in that region.

Not all of the economic news was upbeat, however. Construction spending fell in May by more than the market expected, and according to the ADP National Employment Report, the private sector lost more jobs in June than anticipated.

The Dow rose 57.06, or 0.7 percent, to 8,504.06. It had climbed as high as 8,580.47 in earlier trading.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index rose 4.01, or 0.4 percent, to 923.33. The Nasdaq Composite Index rose 10.68, or 0.6 percent, to 1,845.72.

Scott Fullman, director of derivatives investment strategy for WJB Capital Group, said the employment report - along with thin, preholiday trading volumes - could make for a volatile market Thursday. U.S. markets are closed Friday in observance of the July Fourth holiday.

Bond prices were little changed. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which moves opposite its price, was flat at 3.54 percent.

In an upbeat earnings report, General Mills Inc. said its fiscal fourth-quarter profit nearly doubled. The maker of Cheerios cereal and Yoplait yogurt also offered earnings guidance for 2010 above analysts’ expectations. Shares rose $2.16, or 3.9 percent, to $58.18.

The biggest gainer among the 30 Dow stocks was Kraft Foods Inc. It rose $1.27, or 5 percent, to $26.61.

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