- The Washington Times - Friday, May 29, 2009

Wall Street rose strongly Thursday on increased economic optimism, interest rates fell on healthy demand at a Treasury debt auction, and oil prices rose to a six-month high.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 103.78 points, or 1.3 percent, to 8,403.80. The broader Standard & Poor’s 500 Index added 1.5 percent to 906.83, and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite Index advanced 20.71, or 1.2 percent, to 1,751.79.

The Labor Department reported the number of first-time claims for unemployment insurance decreased last week by 13,000. However, the number of continuing claims increased to 6.79 million for the week ending May 16, a record high for 17 straight weeks and 110,000 more than the preceding week’s revised number of 6.68 million.

The Commerce Department reported that sales of durable goods in April increased $3 billion, or 1.9 percent, to $161.5 billion. The figure is an indicator of whether U.S. households are again buying such long-lasting and more expensive products as appliances and automobiles.

Sales of new houses increased 0.3 percent in April to an annual pace of 352,000, Commerce also reported. The advance was less than expected, and housing stocks fell.

The median new-home sales price decreased 15 percent from a year earlier, and the number of homes on the market fell to the lowest level in almost eight years.

March sales were revised lower, falling 3.0 percent to an annual rate to 351,000. Originally, the government said March sales fell 0.6 percent to 356,000. February sales rose 10 percent.

The home sales report was issued shortly before the Mortgage Bankers Association reported that a record 12 percent of mortgages are delinquent or in foreclosure. Foreclosures on prime, fixed-rate loans doubled in the past year and is now the largest percentage of new foreclosures, the group said.

The day’s gains returned the S&P; 500 to positive territory for the year. The Dow is down 4.3 percent so far this year, while the Nasdaq is up 11.1 percent.

The S&P; 500 is up 34 percent from a 12-year low in early March, on easing fears about the depth of the recession as profits at companies from Ford to Wells Fargo have exceeded expectations.

The yield on the 10-year note fell to 3.66 percent from 3.75 percent Wednesday, its highest level since November, as the strong demand at the Treasury auction eased worries about higher borrowing costs.

JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and American Express each rose more than 3 percent to lead the Dow.

Light, sweet crude rose $1.63 to $65.08 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, a six-month high. Marathon Oil Corp. shares rose $1.77, or 6.1 percent, to $31.01. Devon Energy Corp. shares jumped $2.02, or 3.4 percent, to $62.31.

The dollar was mixed against other major currencies. Gold prices rose.

Britain’s FTSE 100 fell 0.7 percent, Germany’s DAX fell 1.4 percent, and France’s CAC-40 slid 0.8 percent. Japan’s Nikkei stock average edged up 0.1 percent.

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