- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 13, 2003

NEW YORK (AP) — Wall Street yesterday extended its big rally, propelling the Dow Jones industrials up 122 points despite the absence of economic or earnings news to guide investors.

The blue chips scored their second straight triple-digit win. As the market gains in upward momentum, analysts say investors are afraid of being left behind.

“Last week, you had people chasing stocks for the first time in quite a spell, and it is a good sign,” said Michael Murphy, head trader at Wachovia Securities in Baltimore.

“It ain’t 1998 or 1999, but it feels pretty good,” Mr. Murphy added. “You can tell there’s a buzz in the room. The right guys are calling in and buying stocks, and it is more of a longer-term call. Hedge funds are always a part of it, but we are starting to see some of the bigger players putting money to work.”

The Dow closed up 122.13, or 1.4 percent, at 8,726.73, building on two straight weekly gains and a 113.38-point surge on Friday.

The market’s broader gauges also posted big gains, having climbed higher for four consecutive weeks. The Nasdaq composite index rose 21.25, or 1.5 percent, to 1,541.40. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index advanced 11.70, or 1.3 percent, to 945.11. The Russell 2000 index, which tracks smaller-company stocks, rose 4.67, or 1.1 percent, to 418.20.

There was little news to influence the market, as no major economic reports were scheduled, and few companies were releasing first-quarter results.

Stocks were defying a recent tendency to retreat after big advances. And the gains have been big.

Since March 11, when the market’s major indexes were at the lowest levels since hitting multiyear lows in October, the Nasdaq has barreled back 21.2 percent. The Dow has made a comeback of 16 percent, and the S&P; has recouped 18 percent.

Some pullback is to be expected after weeks of hefty rallies that have been based on better-than-expected first-quarter earnings reports. But any selling has been moderate, short-lived and on light volume, which, analysts say, are indications that investors are growing more confident about the market.

“We are two months into this rally … [and] yet the market refuses to go down. It may be indicative that we are in the early stages of a more prolonged move higher,” said Richard A. Dickson, senior market strategist, at Lowry’s Research Reports in Palm Beach, Fla.

Retailers, among the last major companies to report first-quarter profits, advanced even as investors awaited quarterly results due out this week.

Wal-Mart rose 90 cents to $56.70 ahead of its first-quarter earnings scheduled for release today. Target, due to report results Thursday, rose 86 cents to $36.13.

Investors also gave Dell a boost, sending the computer maker’s stock up 81 cents to $31.90 ahead of earnings slated for release Thursday.

Brokerage house upgrades lifted other individual stocks.

AnnTaylor advanced $1.65 to $24.92 after Prudential Securities raised the recommendation on the company to “buy” from “hold.”

Cisco Systems rose 72 cents to $16.67 after Lehman Brothers upgraded the networker to “overweight” from “equal-weight.”

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners slightly more than 2-to-1 on the New York Stock Exchange. Trading volume was light at 1.36 billion shares, below a thin 1.31 billion on Friday.

Overseas, Japan’s Nikkei stock average finished yesterday up 0.9 percent. In Europe, Britain’s FTSE 100 rose 0.5 percent, while France’s CAC-40 slipped 0.2 percent and Germany’s DAX index lost 0.7 percent.

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