- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 29, 2001

NEW YORK (AP) As it approached the end of its second straight down year, Wall Street remained positive yesterday stocks claimed some slim gains in response to positive economic news and managed to offset some typical year-end tax selling.
The Dow Jones industrials also reached their highest level since the September 11 terror attacks.
The market got a boost when the Conference Board reported its Consumer Confidence Index rose to 93.7 from 84.9 in November. Meanwhile, sales of new homes soared 6.4 percent in November, the largest increase in nearly a year, according to the Commerce Department.
The Dow rose 5.68, or 0.06 percent, to 10,136.99, its best close since the terror attacks, after which the blue chips dropped to a yearly low of 8,235.81 on Sept. 21. The Dow also has gained 95 points in the previous two sessions.
The broader market also finished higher. The Nasdaq composite index rose 10.84, or 0.6 percent, to 1,987.26 and the Standard & Poor's 500 index advanced 3.89, or 0.3 percent, to 1,161.02.
Investors were also heartened by a report on durable goods orders. Although orders to U.S. factories fell 4.8 percent in November due mostly to a big drop in demand for military airplanes, demand rose for many other big-ticket items, including computers, cars and industrial machinery.
"To me, the market's responding to the fundamentals. There's been some positive earnings news, some positive guidance, and today you had a nice jump in consumer confidence. That's all good for stocks," said Jeffrey Applegate, chief investment strategist at Lehman Brothers.
While the market's mood was upbeat, some investors sold stocks to take tax losses for 2001, a yearly occurrence and particularly predictable in years when the market falls.
"You are down to the crunch time of those who are left to take some tax losses. It makes sense for taxable investors, and when you have had back-to-back down years, you have to expect some year-end tax loss selling," said Matt Brown, head of equity management at Wilmington Trust.
Yesterday's gainers were mostly concentrated in technology, which many investors expect will lead the market higher in 2002. Broadcom rose 95 cents to $43, while PMC-Sierra gained 93 cents to $22.78.
Yahoo climbed 53 cents to $18.30 on a fourth-quarter revenue upgrade by Merrill Lynch analyst Henry Blodget. He estimates the portal to post revenue of $175 million, above Wall Street's forecast of $168 million.
Blue chips were more mixed. American Express rose $1.05 to $36.05, but Procter & Gamble fell 64 cents to $79.51. General Motors gained $1 to $48.92, while Coca Cola declined 77 cents to $47.17.
Oil stocks were slightly higher as OPEC confirmed it would slash 1.5 million barrels a day from its daily crude production to firm up sagging oil prices. The cuts, a 6 percent reduction, will begin Jan. 1, and last at least six months. Conoco rose 13 cents to $28.38, while ChevronTexaco also gained 13 cents to close at $90.44.
Another reason for yesterday's gains was the so-called Santa Claus rally, an annual occurrence between Christmas and New Year's when stocks move higher as investors grow hopeful about the year ahead and money managers adjust portfolios, picking up stocks that have reached bargain prices.
With one more trading session left in 2001, the major indexes are still showing significant losses. The Dow is off 6 percent, while the S&P; 500 is down 12 percent. The Nasdaq, which skidded early in the year amid the continuing shakeout in high-tech companies, is down nearly 20 percent for the year.
Advancing issues outnumbered decliners nearly 2-to-1 on the New York Stock Exchange. Consolidated volume came to 1.15 billion shares, up from 1.12 billion on Thursday. Volume has been light this week because of the holidays.
The week, shortened by the Christmas holiday, was positive for Wall Street.
The Dow rose 101.65 points, or 1 percent. The Nasdaq climbed 41.43, or 2.1 percent for the week. The S&P; 500 had a weekly gain of 16.13, or 1.4 percent.

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