- The Washington Times - Friday, April 10, 2009

Wall Street posted solid gains Thursday, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed above 8,000 again on a better-than-anticipated profit report by Wells Fargo.

Wells Fargo forecast a record $3 billion profit for the first quarter, assuring investors anxious about upcoming earning reports by banks, which will show whether credit markets have improved in the global recession.

The Dow closed at 8,083.38, up 246.27 points. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index closed 31.40 points up, to 856.56, and the Nasdaq Composite Index closed at 1,652.54, up 61.88 points.

The last time the Dow closed above the 8,000 mark was April 3, and before that was early February.

For the week, the Dow added 66 points, 0.8 percent. The blue chips hadn't logged five straight weekly gains since October 2007, when the stock market hit its peak. Since the rally began March 10, the Dow has gained 22 percent, the best performance since 1933.

Even with the rapid rise in the past month, the Dow is still down by 43 percent from its high of Oct. 9, 2007.

The S&P 500 rose 1.7 percent for the week, while the Nasdaq added 1.9 percent.

Signs of improvement from one of the nation's largest banks gave investors reason to rally around the banking sector amid hopes that the worst of the credit crisis is ending. The KBW Bank Index, which tracks 24 of the nation's largest banks, surged 20.1 percent to 33.81. Some of the nation's hardest hit banks have also rallied, with Citigroup Inc. gaining 34 cents, or 12.6 percent, to $3.04. Shares of Bank of America Corp. rose $2.49, or 35.3 percent, to $9.55.

Wells Fargo's stock surged $4.72, or 31.7 percent, to close at $19.61. Bank of America stock was up 35.98 percent, and Citigroup Inc. was up more than 12 percent.

The gains Thursday followed a Labor Department report released in the morning that showed new claims for jobless benefit fell more than expected last week, but ongoing claims reached a record high for the 11th straight time.

Initial claims for state unemployment-insurance benefits for the week ending April 4 dropped 20,000, to an adjusted 654,000. The revised number for the previous week is 674,000, according to the agency.

The gains also came amid mixed monthly sales reports from retailers.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. reported lower-than-expected sales in March, which resulted in its shares dropping 1.95 percent. Target Corp. rose 2.29 percent after posting better-than-anticipated numbers.

Wall Street closed Wednesday with slight gains with investors seizing on upbeat housing and insurance news but still remaining cautious on looming corporate-earnings reports.

Pulte Homes Inc. announcement that would will buy Centex Corp. in a $1.3 billion deal that will create the biggest homebuilding company in the country. And the Treasury Department announced it will extend bailout money to some struggling life insurance companies, a major part of the U.S. financial system.

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