- The Washington Times - Monday, March 17, 2003

NEW YORK, March 17 (UPI) — Prices on the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq Stock Market soared Monday, ignited by speculation that a U.S.-led military strike on Iraq might occur within days.

Shares rose for the fourth straight session on investors' hopes that a war with Iraq would be swift and leave the world's largest economy relatively unscathed.

The blue-chip Dow Jones industrial average soared 281.86 points, or 3.59 percent, to 8,141.57. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index gained 51.12 points, or 3.81 percent, to 1,391.45.

The broader New York Stock Exchange composite index rose 141.58 points to 4,783.21, the Standard & Poor's 500 index rose gained 29.42 points to 862.69, the American Stock Exchange composite index increased by 5.57 points to 820.64 points, and the Wilshire 5000 Index soared 265.49 points to 8,161.98.

Big Board volume was an estimated 1.69 billion shares while Nasdaq volume amounted to an estimated 1.86 billion shares.

President George W. Bush is expected to demand in a speech to the American people on Monday night that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein leave Iraq to avoid war, experts said.

Uncertainty about Iraq has weighed on stocks over the past few months. While investors are worried that action could sap an already-weak economy and possibly trigger retaliatory terrorist attacks, Wall Street has hung in limbo and analysts have said stocks would react positively to either an invasion or a peaceful resolution — a rally in part on relief that the uncertainty has been removed from the market.

In addition, many think if the United States invades, the war will be quick and successful, giving stocks a lift.

U.S. Treasury prices tumbled. The 10-year bond fell 1 2/32 to 100 12/32. Its yield, which moves in the opposite direction of its price, rose to 3.83 percent from 3.70 percent late Friday.

In Europe, stock prices ended higher in busy trading in London, Frankfurt and Paris. The London International Stock Exchange's blue-chip FTSE-100 index gained 120.50 points, or 3.35 percent, to 3,722.30. The German DAX index rose 83.93 points, or 3.49 percent, to 2,487.12 and the French CAC-40 index jumped 91.72 points, or 3.4 percent, to 2,831.73.

Earlier in Asia, prices on the Tokyo Stock Exchange ended lower on broad-based selling amid increasing war fears. The blue-chip Nikkei Stock Average, which rose 134.13 points in the previous session, lost 131.05 points, or 1.6 percent, to 7,871.64 — just above its 20-year low of 7,862.43 set on March 11.

Stocks also fell in Hong Kong, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and Sydney.

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