- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 2, 2009

NEW YORK (AP) - Wall Street is extending its rally as it grows more optimistic that the economy is on the mend. The Dow industrials broke thorough 8,000 and major indexes jumped more than 2 percent Thursday.

In late morning trading, the Dow is up 262.84 at 8,024.44. The Nasdaq Composite has gained 62.78 to 1,614. 38. And the Standard & Poor’s 500 is up 28.65 to 839.73.

The moves come as the world’s finance leaders met in London to discuss efforts to fix the global economy. The G-20 ministers plan to give the International Monetary Fund $500 billion, and create stricter rules for hedge funds.

Bank stocks got an especially big boost when the Financial Accounting Standards Board relaxed rules forcing banks to value their assets at current prices. The change should help banks reduce losses.

And the Commerce Department revealed a large increase in February factory orders, following Wednesday’s better-than-expected readings on pending home sales, manufacturing activity and auto sales.

There’s a growing sense on Wall Street that the economy, at least stateside, might be bottoming out.

“The market mindset is: OK, we’re not in a tailspin,” said Jack A. Ablin, chief investment officer at Harris Private Bank.

Since a nearly 12-year low on March 9, the Dow is up about 19 percent.

The market has managed to shrug off data showing that the job market remains extremely weak. On Thursday, the Labor Department reported a surprisingly large rise in last week’s jobless claims, and on Wednesday, data from a research group showed a bigger-than-expected March decline in private sector employment.

Economists predict that Friday’s report will show a loss of 654,000 jobs in March.

“It could be a replay of last month, where we expected terrible, we got terrible, and were relieved it wasn’t worse,” Ablin said.

The Dow Jones Total Stock Market index, which reflects nearly all stocks traded in the United States, has gained 20.2 percent _ or $1.6 trillion _ since March 9.

Analysts are quick to point out, however, that stocks are still well below their October 2007 record highs, and that market rebounds are typically volatile. Investors got a taste of volatility on Monday, when stocks dropped sharply as the Obama administration raised the possibility of a U.S. automaker bankruptcy.

In addition to a potentially bad jobs report on Friday, the release of first-quarter earnings in the coming weeks could threaten the rally. The market is bracing for dismal results from companies across nearly all industries, but might get thwarted if executives say business conditions are still deteriorating.

Government bond prices slipped Thursday. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which moves opposite its price, rose to 2.70 percent from 2.66 percent late Wednesday. The yield on the three-month T-bill, considered one of the safest investments, was flat at 0.21 percent.

Crude oil rose $3.33 to $51.72 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

The dollar was mostly lower against other major currencies. Gold fell.

Overseas, Japan’s Nikkei stock average rose 4.4 percent. In afternoon trading, Britain’s FTSE 100 rose 2.9 percent, Germany’s DAX index rose 4.2 percent, and France’s CAC-40 rose 3.5 percent.


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