- The Washington Times - Friday, May 8, 2009

Wall Street closed Thursday with losses, despite upbeat news on unemployment and retail sales but just ahead of the government’s much anticipated report on the health of major U.S. banks.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 8,409.85, down 102.43 points. The broader Standard & Poor’s 500 Index closed at 907.39, down 12.14 points, and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite Index closed at 1,716.24, down 42.86 points.

Though the official results of the “stress tests” were not made public until after trading ended Thursday, stocks have posted gains for weeks as unofficial sources divulged upbeat reports about some of the country’s 19 major financial institutions.

Among the 10 banks that need to raise more capital, the Treasury Department said Bank of America Corp. needs the most: $33.9 billion. Wells Fargo & Co. requires $13.7 billion, GMAC LLC $11.5 billion and Citigroup Inc. $5.5 billion.

Bank of America stock closed at $13.51 a share, up 82 cents or 6.46 percent. Citigroup Inc. fell 5 cents to $3.81, while Wells Fargo & Co. fell $2.33, or 8.7 percent, to $24.51.

Major market indices have gained more than 30 percent since reaching 11-year lows in early March, a rally that largely has followed first-quarter reports by major U.S. banks that were better than expected.

The markets’ recent gains appeared to show the worst of the recession might be over, but investors remain cautious and the markets still are down significantly from their October 2007 highs.

The Labor Department reported Thursday that 601,000 workers filed first-time unemployment claims last week, which was fewer than expected. However, continuing claims increased for the 14th straight week, setting a record high at 6.3 million.

Investors will be looking to a Labor Department report Friday on April unemployment.

Also Thursday, General Motors Corp. reported a $6 billion loss in the first quarter, which shows the country’s troubled automotive industry is far from a recovery.

Target Corp. and Walmart were among several major retailers that reported positive sales numbers Thursday.

Target said net sales for April were $4.45 million, 4.5 percent higher than in April 2008. Gregg Steinhafel, the company’s chief executive officer, said the company’s overall first-quarter performance was “significantly” better than expected.

Target shares closed at $42.67, up $1.20, or 2.89 percent.

Walmart reported first-quarter domestic sales jumped 5 percent to $63.15 million, much more than analysts had forecast.

Walmart stock rose 80 cents to close at $50.31, up 0.77 percent.

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