- The Washington Times - Friday, November 12, 2004

NEW YORK (AP) — Wall Street ended its third straight winning week with another rally yesterday, advancing as a new retail sales report and a consumer sentiment reading showed that Americans are growing more confident about the economy.

The latest Commerce Department report said retail sales rose 0.2 percent in October, a respectable gain considering that automobile sales dropped 2.2 percent. Without auto sales, retail sales would have been up a healthy 0.9 percent, although lack of spending on such big-ticket items worried some investors.

Stabilizing crude oil futures once again helped stocks. A barrel of light crude settled at $47.32, down 10 cents, on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

“The retail report, along with oil and the elections and the economy, they’ve all contributed to a very nice run we’ve had, and should continue to have through the end of the year,” said Hans Olsen, managing director and chief investment officer at Bingham Legg Advisers in Boston. “But oil, in particular, could still be a problem. It’s been driven by demand, not by problems with supply, and a big spike in demand or a big supply problem on top of that could be a big shock to the system.”

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 69.17, or 0.66 percent, to 10,539.01. It was the Dow’s best close since April 6, and the index also climbed back into positive territory for the year to date.

Broader stock indicators also advanced, with the Standard & Poor’s 500 index posting a new 21/2-year high. The S&P; 500 was up 10.69, or 0.91 percent, at 1,184.17, its best close since Aug. 24, 2001. The index had hit its first post-September 11 high on Thursday.

The Nasdaq Composite Index gained 24.07, or 1.17 percent, to 2,085.34, its best showing since Feb. 11.

Wall Street finished its third straight week in positive territory thanks to buying across all sectors. While the postelection rally continued, the exuberance of investors in the past two weeks was replaced by more caution, though lower oil prices and a reassuring statement from the Federal Reserve helped spur steady buying.

For the week, the Dow gained 1.46 percent, the S&P; 500 rose 1.54 percent and the Nasdaq climbed 2.28 percent.

Analysts said yesterday’s retail sales figures showed that consumers’ view of the economy was improving just in time for the holiday shopping season. That was confirmed by the University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment index, which posted a preliminary 95.5 reading for November, up from 91.7 in October and far better than the 93 reading Wall Street had expected.

The Commerce Department report boosted retail stocks, with discount retailer Target Corp. rising $1.25 to $52.02 and Dow component Wal-Mart Stores Inc. climbing 23 cents to $56.85. Shares of major automakers were mixed on the report. Ford Motor Co. lost 2 cents to $14.23, while General Motors Corp. was up 31 cents at $40.21.

Dell Inc. gained $3.19 to $40.44 after the computer manufacturer posted record third-quarter sales and a 25 percent increase in profits. The company’s results were in line with Wall Street estimates. Dell also said it would see $60 billion in annual revenue by 2006, a year ahead of schedule. The company’s confidence could help revive flagging interest in computer stocks overall, analysts said.

“It wasn’t necessarily the numbers that got them moving, it was their tone and confidence in their report,” said Keith Keenan, vice president of institutional trading at Wall Street Access. “Dell has managed to become the Wal-Mart of the PC space, with excellent service and really low costs.”

Pixar Animation Studios Inc., producer of “Finding Nemo” and “The Incredibles,” beat Wall Street’s profit forecasts by 14 cents per share. Pixar surged $6.60 to $86.54.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by more than 5 to 2 on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume came to 1.54 billion shares, compared with 1.39 billion on Thursday.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies was up 5.68, or 0.92 percent, at 621.98.

Overseas, Japan’s Nikkei stock average surged 1.6 percent. In Europe, Britain’s FTSE 100 closed up 0.36 percent, France’s CAC-40 rose 0.03 percent for the session, and Germany’s DAX index gained 0.3 percent.

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