- The Washington Times - Monday, December 8, 2003

NEW YORK (AP) — Wall Street sprinted higher yesterday as investors kept their faith in a strengthening economy despite the disappointing employment report on Friday. The Dow Jones Industrials climbed 102 points to fall just shy of 10,000.

“Even though folks are focusing on the jobs report being a lot weaker than anticipated, the bottom line is we still created jobs and that’s a whole lot better than six months ago,” said John Caldwell, chief equity strategist for McDonald Financial Group. “The strength in the economy is looking real and sustainable at least through next year.”

The Dow closed up 102.59, or about 1 percent, at 9,965.27, having gained 0.8 percent in the previous week. It was the highest close since May 28, 2002, when the blue-chip average stood at 9,981.58. The last time the Dow traded above 10,000 was May 31, 2002.

The broader market also finished higher. The Nasdaq Composite Index rose 11.03, or 0.6 percent, to 1,948.85, after a weekly decline of 1.1 percent. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index gained 7.80, or 0.7 percent, to 1,069.30, having risen 0.3 percent.

Investors brushed aside concerns that the dollar slid to a record low yesterday against the euro. Analysts say many investors instead were betting that the Federal Reserve will indicate that it plans to leave rates unchanged for some time when it meets today.

In the past several meetings, the Fed has said it isn’t likely to raise rates for a “considerable period.”

“Debate is swirling on the wording in their statement and whether they drop the ‘considerable period’ terminology,” Mr. Caldwell said. “Any movement down that path might spook the market.”

Investors have been increasingly optimistic about the economy, sending stocks higher in recent weeks before the unemployment report Friday prompted worries of a more uneven recovery. Some analysts also believe that stock valuations might be a bit high.

“I think most likely people are looking to trim some of their positions, and techs had a good run,” said Jeff Swensen, senior trader at John Hancock Funds, who believes trading will be choppy in the coming weeks. “If you want to lock in profits, that’s a likely area to look at.”

JetBlue Airways Corp. gained $1.94 to $27.80 after Merrill Lynch upgraded the airline to “buy” from “neutral.”

Baxter International Inc. rose $1.30 to $29.50 after Merrill Lynch upgraded the drug company to “buy” from “neutral.”

Decliners included Freddie Mac, which fell 20 cents to $55.15, after the McLean buyer of home mortgages named Richard F. Syron as its new chairman and chief executive officer.

McDonald’s Corp. fell 37 cents to $25.62 after the fast-food giant reported that same-store sales rose 6.4 percent last month and total sales increased 14.9 percent from last year.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners more than 2 to 1 on the New York Stock Exchange. Volume was very light at 1.19 billion shares, compared with 1.23 billion traded Friday.

The Russell 2000 Index, which tracks smaller-company stocks, rose 4.03, or 0.8 percent, to 543.04.

Overseas, Japan’s Nikkei stock average finished 3.2 percent lower. In Europe, Britain’s FTSE 100 decreased 0.2 percent, France’s CAC-40 fell 0.6 percent, and Germany’s DAX index declined 0.9 percent.

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