- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 23, 2005

NEW YORK (AP) — Better-than-expected consumer confidence numbers and a drop in oil prices sent stocks higher yesterday, extending Wall Street’s November rally in light pre-holiday trading.

Investors were encouraged by the University of Michigan’s Consumer Confidence Index, which came in at 81.6, slightly higher than the 81 reading Wall Street expected. That could bode well as consumers head to the malls tomorrow for the traditional start of the holiday shopping season.

Oil prices dropped after the Energy Department reported substantial increases in the nation’s fuel stockpiles. A barrel of light crude was quoted at $58.71, down 13 cents, on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

“This definitely helps the continuation of the rally,” said Peter Cardillo, chief strategist and senior vice president at S.W. Bach & Co. “From here, I see the continuation of this rally through the end of the year.”

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 44.66, or 0.41 percent, to 10,916.09.



Broader stock indicators also rose. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index added 4.38, or 0.35 percent, to 1,265.61, and the Nasdaq Composite Index gained 6.42, or 0.28 percent, to 2,259.98.

Bonds edged lower, with the yield on the 10-year Treasury note rising to 4.47 percent from 4.43 percent late yesterday. The dollar was mixed against other foreign currencies, while gold prices fell.

Not all the economic news was good. A larger-than-expected increase in first-time jobless claims, which rose by 30,000 to 335,000 last week, had investors concerned that the labor market was still struggling to recover from disruptions caused by the Gulf Coast hurricanes.

The number of people who are continuing to collect unemployment claims remains high, at 2.82 million, a sign that workers laid off because of hurricanes are not finding jobs easily.

The day’s trading was unlikely to be significant to the overall market in the coming weeks, as most investors were already in vacation mode. Volume is traditionally light during the Thanksgiving holiday week; the markets will be closed today and trade in a shortened session tomorrow.

“This is the time of the year that the market, historically, goes up,” said Barry Berman, head trader for Robert W. Baird & Co. in Milwaukee. “There’s a sense that that rally has started and people are jumping on board.”

Sovereign Bancorp Inc. fell 49 cents to $22.17 after restructuring its $2.4 billion deal with Banco Santander Central Hispano SA to sell a stake to the Spanish banking firm. The New York Stock Exchange said the deal no longer requires shareholder approval to move forward. Banco Santander’s American depositary receipts added 7 cents to $12.91.

Meat processor Hormel Foods Corp.’s fourth-quarter earnings rose 17 percent because of a strong turkey market and improved production. But the maker of Spam said the outlook for the second half of 2006 is not clear and Merrill Lynch cut its rating on the company, saying it will be difficult for next year’s results to beat 2005. Hormel fell $2.28 to $32.74.

Research in Motion Ltd., maker of the BlackBerry mobile e-mail device, tumbled 80 cents to $66.28 after it cut its third- and fourth-quarter subscriber forecasts because of delayed product debuts. The company reaffirmed its third-quarter profit forecasts, however.

Procter & Gamble Co. fell 13 cents to $57.01 after it disclosed that third-quarter earnings fell at two business units it acquired from Gillette. Procter & Gamble closed its acquisition of Gillette on Oct. 1 and its results were not included in P&G;’s most recent quarterly report because the reporting period ended Sept. 30.

Advancing issues led decliners by roughly 9-to-7 on the NYSE, where preliminary consolidated volume came to 1.97 billion shares, down from 2.28 billion traded Tuesday.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies rose 0.59, or 0.09 percent, to 683.14.

Overseas, Japan’s stock markets were closed for a national holiday. Britain’s FTSE 100 rose 0.26 percent, Germany’s DAX index added 0.41 percent, and France’s CAC-40 rose 0.61 percent.

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