- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 26, 2009

The March rally on Wall Street continued Thursday, with the three major stock indexes reaching six-week highs.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 7,921, up 171.72 points. The S&P Index rose 17.72 points, to 831.60. The NASDAQ closed at 1,582.03, up 53.08 points.

The three indexes also rose more than 2 percent Thursday. The gains put the NASDAQ in positive territory for the first time in 2009.

Market analysts said the gains — the ninth in 13 days — followed quarterly numbers from Best Buy Co. and ConAgra Foods Inc. that exceeded expectations, suggesting that consumers are spending more. Analysts said the gains also were a response to the strong demand at a government-debt auction.

The demand indicates whether Washington will be able to finance its economic-stimulus and financial-bailout programs, the analysts said.

They also said investors appeared more reassured about the economy and the financial markets after Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner’s morning appearance on Capitol Hill, compared to his previous, less productive talks with federal lawmakers.

Mr. Geithner was on Capitol Hill to discuss plans to further regulate U.S. financial markets and improve the economy. His comments Wednesday about a new world reserve currency roiled financial markets, resulting in a drop in the value of the dollar and a sharp uptick in interest rates.

Best Buy posted a fourth-quarter loss, but it was less than Wall Street expected, which resulted in stock for the country’s largest consumer-electronics retailer rising to $3.75, or 11 percent, to $37.21.

Stock in ConAgra, maker of Healthy Choice and Peter Pan brands, rose $1.28, or 8.2 percent, to $16.84, also exceed expectations. General Motors Corp. stock rose 11 percent.

Among the stocks that did poorly were Bank of America and Citigroup Inc. Bank of America stock was down 1.43 percent, to 7.59 a share. Citigroup stock was down 4.07 percent, to $2.83 a share.

The Dow gained 90 points Wednesday. It lost 116 points Tuesday, ending a 10-day rally and erasing some of the 498-point gain Monday, the market’s biggest increase since late October.

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