- The Washington Times - Friday, May 27, 2005

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks eked out modest gains yesterday ahead of the long holiday weekend as investors eyed higher oil prices and a government report that showed rising personal incomes but slower growth in consumer spending.

With a separate report revealing a slight uptick in consumer confidence, the day’s economic data added up to a wash, analysts said. Trading was light, and stocks seemed to stall after reaching significant highs over the last seven weeks. Except for the May employment report due next Friday, there may be few catalysts ahead.

“It’s a very quiet day,” said Todd Clark, head of listed equity trading at Wells Fargo Securities. “It looks like a lot of people have already checked out for the start of the summer.”

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 4.95, or 0.05 percent, to 10,542.55, after a strong session Thursday thanks to an encouraging report on gross domestic product growth.

The broader gauges were also modestly higher. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index edged up 1.16, or 0.10 percent, at 1,198.78. The Nasdaq Composite Index rose 4.49, or 0.2 percent, to 2,075.73.

For the week, the Dow gained 70.64, or 0.67 percent; the S&P; 500 added 9.50, or 0.80 percent; and the Nasdaq rose 29.31, or 1.43 percent. Though stocks made little progress during yesterday’s session, market watchers were pleased with the advance, particularly since stocks had started the day in negative territory.

“I’m very encouraged that the market managed to hold all the solid gains from earlier in the week,” said Peter Cardillo, chief strategist and market analyst with S.W. Bach & Co. “Today is getaway day, and the market still managed to reverse its earlier losses, so that’s obviously a positive going into next week.”

Treasury prices were flat to lower in a holiday-shortened session, with the yield on the 10-year note rising to 4.10 percent, up from 4.08 percent late Thursday. The U.S. dollar was lower against other major currencies. Gold prices rose.

Crude oil for July delivery settled up 84 cents at $51.85 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange ahead of Memorial Day weekend, considered the official kickoff of the summer driving season.

The Commerce Department reported a 0.7 percent rise in personal income in April, reflecting a big jump in hiring by private sector businesses. The increase follows two months of 0.5 percent growth. Consumer spending rose 0.6 percent in April, down from a 0.9 percent rise in March. Analysts say rising employment will likely support consumer spending in the period ahead, and help keep the economy moving at a good clip.

The report also showed inflation pressures remained contained, with a gauge preferred by the Federal Reserve showing prices outside of food and energy rose by 1.6 percent in April, compared to the same period a year ago. That was down from a 1.7 percent increase for the 12 months ending in March.

Separately, the University of Michigan’s consumer-sentiment index showed a rise in consumer confidence. The May index came in at 86.9, higher than the 86 expected on Wall Street, according to published reports. The survey is only released to subscribers.

Ford Motor Co. added 4 cents to $10.07 after the carmaker’s finance arm said it had received approval to enter China’s lucrative auto financing market and will begin operations later this year. The business initially will concentrate on wholesale financing for dealers, Ford Motor Credit Co. said, but will also conduct trials of consumer loans.

American International Group Inc. was up 69 cents at $56.40 a day after New York regulators filed a civil lawsuit accusing the nation’s largest insurance company and two former top executives of using “deception and fraud” to make the company’s financial picture appear brighter than it was. Analysts at UBS and Goldman Sachs saw the filing as a positive for the stock, as it contained little new information and set the stage for negotiations toward a possible settlement.

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