- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 2, 2004

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks strode higher in a late-session buying surge yesterday, as oil prices stepped back from their highs and investors shrugged off mixed economic data, focusing with renewed optimism on the government’s upcoming jobs report. The Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped more than 120 points.

Trading has been muted all week due to the Republican National Convention in New York and the upcoming Labor Day holiday. Investors were also looking ahead to an after-the-bell outlook from chip maker Intel Corp. — which came in gloomy, as expected — and U.S. employment data scheduled to be announced today.

The markets grew increasingly more upbeat yesterday as rumors swirled among traders that President Bush would allude to bullish job growth numbers in his speech on the final night of the convention. Still, analysts were puzzled by the strength of the rally.

“Could it just be that there’s no one in, volume is low, and there’s nothing new negative?” asked Janna Sampson, director of Portfolio Management at Oakbrook Investments. “People might be thinking, ‘You know, I want to be in for September, I want to do it today, and I’m taking a four-day weekend.’”

According to final results, the Dow soared 121.82, or 1.2 percent, to 10,290.28, its highest point in seven weeks.

The broader gauges also rose sharply. The Nasdaq Composite Index added 23.02, or 1.2 percent, to 1,873.43. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index gained 12.40, or 1.1 percent, to 1,118.31. The sprint sent the S&P; 500 back into positive range for the year, up 0.6 percent since the start of 2004.

Crude prices climbed after Russia’s largest oil producer, Yukos, warned of a potential production halt following a Moscow court’s decision to freeze its assets as part of an ongoing battle over back taxes. Light, sweet crude for October delivery was up 15 cents at $44.15.

Investors were also holding their collective breath as Hurricane Frances took aim at Florida’s eastern coast, less than three weeks after Hurricane Charley struck the state, pushing the nation’s jobless claims higher and denting retail sales in the Southeast.

The fact that the market was up in spite of so many negative factors was cause for optimism, analysts said, and perhaps a sign that investors are setting aside some of the worries that kept them on the sidelines during the summer. It’s almost as if the sellers are “getting a bit tired,” said Bill Groenveld, head trader for VFinance Investments.

There wasn’t much encouragement for the high-tech sector in Intel’s financial outlook, issued after the close of regular trading. The chip bellwether rose 20 cents to close at $21.63 on the Nasdaq Stock Market before the release, then sank 7 percent in extended trading after saying third-quarter revenue was likely to fall in the low end of its previous forecast.

The nation’s retailers reported a third consecutive month of weak sales, as low-to-middle-income shoppers became more frugal in response to rising energy and grocery bills and growing worries about the job market.

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