- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 29, 2003

NEW YORK (AP) Bargain hunters took charge of Wall Street yesterday, halting the market's protracted sell-off and giving stocks their first respectable advance in more than two weeks. The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed nearly 100 points.
The renewed buying, aided by better-than-expected earnings, pushed the Dow back up above the 8,000 mark after the blue-chip average fell below that milestone Monday for the first time in three months.
Analysts said the market was due for a rebound after having seen stocks fall for seven of the previous eight sessions. But they also suspected that the buying would be short-lived because of investor fears that a war with Iraq would undermine an already-flagging economy.
The Dow closed up 99.28, or 1.2 percent, at 8,088.84, its biggest advance since Jan. 9, when it rose 180.87.
In the previous eight sessions, the Dow dropped 853 points, more than wiping out all of its gains in the new year. On Monday, the Dow dropped 141.45 to close below the 8,000 level for the first time since Oct. 14, when it stood at 7,877.40.
The broader market also enjoyed a lift from bargain hunters yesterday. The Nasdaq Composite Index rose 16.91, or 1.3 percent, to 1,342.18. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index advanced 11.06, or 1.3 percent, to 858.54.
Still, the market's gains failed to entirely wipe out declines from Monday, much less those suffered in two weeks of selling, a sign that investors were cautious ahead of President Bush's address to the nation last night.
Investors also were waiting to see what action the Federal Reserve Open Market Committee would take at its two-day meeting that began yesterday. Analysts expect the Fed to leave interest rates unchanged, but to move its bias back to one of easing rates later.
"There are too many question marks right now, and the market doesn't like uncertainty," said Chris Johnson, manager of quantitative analysis at Schaeffer's Investment Research in Cincinnati.
The market managed to rally despite a lackluster report on consumers and discouraging news about durable-goods orders.
The Conference Board reported that consumer confidence in January fell nearly 2 points to 79, slightly better than the 78.5 reading economists had predicted.
The Commerce Department said orders to U.S. factories for big-ticket items, so-called durable goods expected to last at least three years, rose 0.2 percent in December, smaller than the 1 percent rise economists were expecting.
But there was some positive economic news yesterday. The department also reported that new-home sales hit a record last month, rising to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.08 million.

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