- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 17, 2008

NEW YORK | Wall Street at least temporarily shrugged off some of its many concerns Wednesday and bounded higher thanks to a drop in oil prices. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 276 points, or 2.5 percent, posting its best daily gain in three months.

The broader Standard & Poor’s 500 Index also gained 2.5 percent, while the technology-dominated Nasdaq Composite Index surged 3.1 percent. Investors exited government bonds and jumped back into stocks as it appeared that the slowing economy will curtail demand for fuel and, in turn, energy costs.

Light, sweet crude fell $4.14 to settle at $134.60 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, bringing its two-day decline to $10.58.

In addition to sinking oil prices, investors found relief in a decision by Wells Fargo & Co. to boost its dividend that helped counter some of the market’s concerns about the health of banks.

Still, the Labor Department’s report that consumer prices shot up in June at the second fastest pace in 26 years reminded investors that inflation still poses a threat to economic growth.

And Wall Street remains uncertain about the economy and specifically the financial sector. This week has brought fresh attention to potential trouble spots in the mortgage market. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-chartered mortgage financiers, are still a concern, as are regional banks that could have bad mortgage debt on their books.

But, for the moment, investors were pleased by the drop in oil from record levels.

“I think the pullback in oil is significant. The market and the market participants clearly had digested what the impact was going to be if oil prices had stayed at that level,” said Dan Genter, president and chief investment officer of RNC Genter in Los Angeles.

The Dow rose 276.74, or 2.52 percent, to 11,239.28. It was the blue-chips’ biggest one-day gain since April 1, when the index rose 391 points.

Advancing issues narrowly outpaced decliners by more than 3 to 1 on the New York Stock Exchange, where consolidated volume came to 6.58 billion shares, down from 7.26 billion Tuesday.

While Wednesday’s advance likely indicates some enthusiasm among investors, it could also reflect simple bargain hunting rather than a great change in conviction. With many quarterly reports due in the coming weeks, many investors remain uncertain about the health of the economy.

Bond prices declined. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which moves opposite its price, jumped to 3.94 percent from 3.82 percent late Tuesday.

The dollar was mixed against other major currencies, while gold prices fell.

Oil prices declined after Energy Department figures showed that domestic inventories of crude oil and gasoline rose last week, rather than declining as analysts had expected.

“I think what you’re seeing is people are feeling more confident that civilization as we know it is not going to cease to exist and that we’re going to make a landing here,” Mr. Genter said of the decline in oil. “The negative is there is not much of a catalyst here to really pick us up and get us back in the air.”

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