- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 4, 2003

NEW YORK — The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed above 9,000 yesterday for the first time in nearly 10 months, soaring more than 100 points following a pair of positive economic reports.

The gains were surprising given some bad news from DaimlerChrysler, which warned of a big loss in its struggling Chrysler division, and the fact that many analysts believe stocks were due for a pullback following weeks of heavy buying.

“People are now looking for reasons to buy stocks, not sell them,” said Michael Murphy, head trader at Wachovia Securities in Baltimore.

In its fourth straight advance, the Dow closed up 116 points, or 1.3 percent, to 9,039. It was the first time the Dow finished above 9,000 since Aug. 22, when it stood at 9,054.

The Dow has gained 328 points in the past four sessions.

The market’s broader indicators also climbed. The Nasdaq Composite Index, already trading at levels not seen in more than a year, rose 31.1, or 1.9 percent, to 1,635.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index advanced 14.7, or 1.5 percent, to 986. It was the S&P;’s fourth consecutive advance, bringing the total gained to 36.6.

Buyers have dominated the market for nearly three months, as companies reported better-than-anticipated first-quarter earnings, the war with Iraq was quick and economic data has strengthened.

Since March 11, when the rallies began, the Dow rose 20.1 percent, the Nasdaq gained 28.6 percent and the S&P; increased by 23.2 percent.

The Institute for Supply Management reported yesterday that activity in the service sector grew at a faster-than-expected pace in May, marking the highest level in the indicator since the beginning of the year.

The group’s non-manufacturing index jumped to 54.5 from 50.7 in April, while analysts had been expecting 51. Any figure above 50 indicates economic expansion.

Earlier yesterday, the Labor Department reported that productivity, the amount of output per hour of work, rose at an annual rate of 1.9 percent in the first three months of the year, slightly stronger than the 1.6 percent growth rate estimated a month ago.

Bob Armknecht, portfolio manager of the Liberty Equity Growth Fund at Columbia Management Advisors in Boston, said the stock market was gaining momentum as investors anticipated further signs of a recovery later this year.

“People have a sense that everything is there for things to get better,” Mr. Armknecht said.

Among yesterday’s winners, Handspring Inc. rose 17 cents to $1.28 on news that the hand-held computer maker would be bought by rival Palm Inc. Palm advanced $2.29 to $14.44.

Sprint PCS rose 62 cents to $4.87 after RBC Capital Markets upgraded its shares to “outperform” from “sector perform.”

Intel advanced 28 cents to $21.38 ahead of its midquarter update due out today.

But DaimlerChrysler fell 90 cents to $30.75 after the company warned that Chrysler probably will post an operating loss of about $1.2 billion for the second quarter — a serious setback in the company’s efforts to turn around the division.

Chrysler’s results are being hurt as the company offers deep incentives to lure buyers.

The stocks of other major automakers also declined as investors worried that the troubles could hurt other parts of the industry. General Motors slipped 10 cents to $35.85, and Ford Motor fell 13 cents to $10.56.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners more than 3 to 1 on the New York Stock Exchange. Consolidated volume totaled 2.10 billion shares, up from 1.87 billion Tuesday.

The Russell 2000 index, which tracks smaller-company stocks, rose 7.36, or 1.7 percent, to 451.23.

Overseas, Japan’s Nikkei stock average finished down 0.1 percent.

In Europe, Britain’s FTSE 100 closed up 0.3 percent, France’s CAC-40 rose 0.8 percent and Germany’s DAX index gained 1.8 percent.

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