- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 29, 2009

NEW YORK | Investors set aside some of their worries about the economy Tuesday after a closely watched measure of consumer confidence soared in April.

Stocks ended with only modest losses and well off their lows. Concerns about the viability of banks and the spread of swine flu were balanced by news from the Conference Board, reporting that its Consumer Confidence Index surged to its highest level since November.

IBM Corp.’s decision to boost its dividend and spend more to buy back stock also gave the market a shot of confidence.

The Dow Jones industrial Average slipped 8.05, or 0.1 percent, to 8,016.95 after being down as much as 86 in the early going ahead of the consumer confidence report.

Broader stock indicators also lost ground. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 2.36, or 0.3 percent, to 855.16, and the Nasdaq Composite Index fell 5.60, or 0.3 percent, to 1,673.81.

Banking troubles came back into the spotlight after news came out that regulators told Bank of America Corp. and Citigroup Inc. that they may need to raise more capital unless they can convince regulators that results of government “stress tests” were mistaken.

Bank of America fell 77 cents, or 8.6 percent, to $8.15, while Citigroup fell 18 cents, or 5.9 percent, to $2.89.

But the report on consumer confidence bolstered hopes that consumers not unemployed or struggling with debt might begin to step up their spending.

Some stocks that depend on consumer spending rose after the Conference Board said its index jumped 12 points to 39.2 this month. The reading was far better than the 29.5 that economists had expected, and suggests consumers might be willing to spend more if confidence continues to build.

Starbucks Corp. rose 30 cents, or 2.3 percent, to $13.50, while Coca-Cola Co. advanced 4 cents to $42.28.

IBM rose $1.99, or 2 percent, to $101.94 after the company raised its quarterly dividend 5 cents to 55 cents. The company’s board authorized another $3 billion for repurchasing stock. The move brings the total available for buying up shares to $6.7 billion.

“IBM’s buyback and dividend hike has given the market some confidence and reminded people that there is a little bit of favorable news in technology,” said Nick Kalivas, vice president of financial research at the brokerage MF Global in Chicago.

Unlike other major benchmarks, the tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index is up 6.1 percent this year as investors look for lean technology companies to benefit quickly from an economic recovery.

In other trading Tuesday, the Russell 2000 index of smaller companies rose 3.28, or 0.7 percent, to 472.81.

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