- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 7, 2009

UPDATED:

Wall Street closed Thursday with losses, following upbeat news on unemployment and retail sales, but just ahead of the government’s much anticipated report on the health of major U.S. banks.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 8,409.85, down 102.43 points. The broader Standard & Poor’s 500-stocks Index closed at 907.39, down 12.14 points, and the tech-heavy NASDAQ closed at 1,716.24, down 42.86 points.

Though the official results of the “stress tests” will be made public after trading ends Thursday, the markets have posted gains for weeks as unofficial sources divulged upbeat reports about the country’s 19 major financial institutions.

Bank of America Corp., Citigroup Inc., Wells Fargo and GMAC reportedly are among those needing more capital. American Express, JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs and Bank of New York Mellon Corp. do not.

Bank of America stock closed at $13.51 a share, up 6.46 percent. American Express was at $26.09, down 3.97 percent, at the close of trading.

The major markets are up roughly 30 percent since hitting 11-year lows in early March — a rally that largely has followed first-quarter reports by major U.S. banks that were better than expected. The Dow closed Wednesday at 8,512.28, up 101.63 points.

The markets’ recent gains appear to show that the worst of the recession might be over, but investors remain cautious and the markets still are down significantly from their October 2007 highs.

The Labor Department reported Thursday that 601,000 workers filed first-time unemployment claims last week, which was fewer than expected. However, continuing claims increased for the 14th straight week, setting a record high at 6.3 million.

Investors will be looking at a Labor Department report Friday on April unemployment.

Also Thursday, General Motors Corp. reported a $6 billion loss in the first quarter, which shows the country’s troubled automotive industry is far from making a full recovery.

Target Corp. and Walmart were among several major retailers that reported positive numbers.

Target said net sales for April were $4.45 million, 4.5 percent higher than in April 2008. Gregg Steinhafel, the company’s chief executive officer, said the results matched expectations and the company’s overall first-quarter performance was “significantly” better than expected.

Target shares closed at $42.67, up 2.89 percent.

Walmart reported first-quarter domestic sales of $63.15 million, compared with $59.66 million over the similar period in 2008.

Walmart stock was at $49.89, up 0.77 percent, at the close of trading.

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