Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Stocks jump as home sales, construction increase

NEW YORK – Investors are rushing into stocks Monday as surprise increases in pending home sales and construction spending offered the latest signs that the economy is stabilizing.

Stocks surged roughly 2 percent, including the Dow Jones industrial average, which jumped 150 points.

Investors have been more upbeat about prospects for the economy in the last two months and Monday’s reports bolstered the case that the economy’s slide could be slowing.

Two new economic nuggets added to demand for stocks. Pending U.S. home sales rose more than expected to post their second straight monthly gain, while construction spending rose unexpectedly in March after five straight decreases.

The National Association of Realtors said its index of pending sales for previously occupied homes rose 3.2 percent to 84.6 on strength in nonresidential projects and government building. The report was well ahead of the 82.1 economists had been expecting.

Separately, the Commerce Department said construction spending rose 0.3 percent, the best showing since a similar rise last September. Economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters had expected spending to drop 1.5 percent.

David Kelly, chief market strategist at JPMorgan Funds, said each piece of better-than-expected economic news is easing worries that the recession would worsen.

“It’s like watching the market’s blood pressure come down,” he said. “Every day that goes by without something bad happening is reducing the risk of an economic rebound getting derailed.”

In early afternoon trading, the Dow rose 153.00, or 1.9 percent, to 8,373.85. The blue chips had been up about 100 ahead of the reports.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 19.26, or 2.2 percent, to 896.78, and the Nasdaq composite index rose 29.83, or 1.7 percent, to 1,749.03.

The market’s enthusiasm will be put to several tests this week including the April employment report, one of the most closely watched economic indicators, which comes out on Friday.

But one of the biggest concerns for the market is the release Thursday of the results of the government’s “stress tests” on the 19 largest U.S. financial companies. If the results trigger renewed anxiety about the state of the financial system that could upend the market’s powerful two-month advance, which has sent the Standard & Poor’s 500 index up 29.7 percent since March 9.

The market’s spring rally was triggered by word from some of the nation’s biggest banks that business conditions were improving, and has since been bolstered by those banks’ better-than-expected earnings reports.

Many investors anticipate that the stress tests — designed to determine which banks would need more cash if the recession worsens — will show that several banks need more capital.

Investors are concerned about Citigroup Inc. and Bank of America Corp. The Financial Times reported Sunday that the banks are working on plans to raise more than $10 billion each as they negotiate with regulators over the findings of the stress tests.

But the new economic data and media reports that the stress tests could reassure the market helped financial stocks. Citi rose 13 cents, or 4.4 percent, to $3.10, while Bank of America rose 44 cents, or 5.1 percent, to $9.14.

“There is also a lot of cynicism regarding the results of the tests,” said Jason O’Donnell, senior analyst at Boenning & Scattergood Inc. “A lot of investors are questioning the legitimacy of the results.”

Investors shrugged off word that regulators told Wells Fargo & Co. to shore up its finances after government “stress tests” showed the bank would have trouble surviving a deeper recession.

Wells Fargo is one of several banks that regulators will force to have larger capital buffers to protect them against possible future losses, according to two people familiar with the matter who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the process.

Wells Fargo rose $1.60, or 8.2 percent, to $21.21.

Market sentiment has been improving and an increasing number of reports suggest the economy’s slide is easing. But there is still evidence of pain: Chrysler LLC filed for bankruptcy last week, and many companies continue to report weak first-quarter results.

Stocks gained about 1.5 percent last week despite concerns about a potential swine flu pandemic and Chrysler’s bankruptcy filing.

In dealmaking, Italian automaker Fiat confirmed Sunday it is in talks to buy most of General Motors Corp.’s European operations. GM has been trying to find buyers for its noncore, unprofitable businesses to help it avoid bankruptcy. Fiat is also in the process of acquiring a stake in Chrysler.

Sprint Nextel Corp. reported a first-quarter loss, but beat expectations. The nation’s third largest wireless carrier said its revenue fell and it took a charge related to job cuts. The stock jumped 53 cents, or 11.4 percent, to $5.20.

In other trading, the Russell 2000 index of smaller companies rose 10.17, or 2.1 percent, to 497.17.

About four stocks rose for every one that fell on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume came to 676.1 million shares.

The rally in stocks damped demand for the safety of government debt. That pushed the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note up to 3.17 percent from 3.16 percent late Friday.

The dollar was mixed against other major currencies, while gold prices rose.

Light, sweet crude rose 35 cents to $53.55 on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Overseas, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index jumped 5.5 percent. In afternoon trading, Germany’s DAX rose 2.8 percent and France’s CAC-40 gained 2.5 percent. Markets in Japan and London were closed for holidays.

Citizen Online Archive, 2006-2009

This archive contains all the stories that appeared on the Tucson Citizen's website from mid-2006 to June 1, 2009.

In 2010, a power surge fried a server that contained all of videos linked to dozens of stories in this archive. Also, a server that contained all of the databases for dozens of stories was accidentally erased, so all of those links are broken as well. However, all of the text and photos that accompanied some stories have been preserved.

For all of the stories that were archived by the Tucson Citizen newspaper's library in a digital archive between 1993 and 2009, go to Morgue Part 2

Search site | Terms of service