Investors rush back into stocks as economy grows | Shanghai Daily

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Investors rush back into stocks as economy grows

STOCKS logged their best day in three months as investors rushed into the market on word the U.S. economy grew faster than expected.

The Dow Jones industrial average jumped 200 points yesterday to recoup most of its losses for the week, while demand for safe-haven holdings like Treasurys wilted.

The Commerce Department's report that gross domestic product rose at an annual rate of 3.5 percent in the third quarter reinvigorated investors who had dumped stocks for much of the past week on signs of a weakness in the housing market and a disappointing report on consumer confidence.

The economic growth came in ahead of the 3.3 percent rise forecast by economists polled by Thomson Reuters. It was the strongest growth in two years and broke four straight quarters of declines. Coming on the 80th anniversary of the stock market crash that triggered the Great Depression, it was the best indication yet that the longest recession since then has ended.

Many analysts caution that it will be hard to sustain the growth at the pace seen in the third quarter.

Government stimulus programs including the popular Cash for Clunkers auto rebates and tax credits for first-time home buyers bolstered the economy. Once the government's stimulus measures run their course, the economy could run afoul of lingering problems such as high unemployment and weak consumer spending.

"I don't think that at this point in the rebound that the economy would be self-sustainable," said Jason D. Pride, director of research at Haverford Investments in Philadelphia. "The only way to have effective sustained economic growth is to have job growth, but it tends to come later."

Analysts say the economic recovery is likely to be bumpy as consumers try to pay down debt and credit for small businesses remains tight.

But such concerns were pushed aside on yesterday.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 199.89, or 2.1 percent, to 9,962.58. It was the best day for the Dow since July 15.

The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 23.48, or 2.3 percent, to 1,066.11, while the Nasdaq composite index rose 37.94, or 1.8 percent, to 2,097.55.

Bond prices fell, pushing their yields higher. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note rose to 3.50 percent from 3.42 percent late Wednesday. Bonds extended their early losses after a lackluster auction of seven-year notes.

The ICE Futures US dollar index, which measures the dollar against other major currencies, fell after five straight days of gains. The weaker dollar made commodities more attractive for foreign buyers. Gold rose $16.60 to $1,047.10 an ounce on the New York Mercantile Exchange, while crude oil soared $2.41 to settle at $79.87 a barrel.

Mitch Schlesinger, a managing partner at FBB Capital Partners in Bethesda, Maryland, said that because of government support, fourth-quarter GDP should provide a better picture of how much the economy has recovered.

"Some of the artificial goosing of the numbers will come out and we'll get a better picture," Schlesinger said. He added that the economy is likely to grow in the fourth quarter, but probably not at as fast a pace as the third quarter.

In the interim, however, investors will welcome the better-than-expected third quarter report, he said.

Other economic news was mixed. The number of people claiming jobless benefits for the first time dropped less than expected last week. The Labor Department said workers filing first-time claims for unemployment dipped 1,000 to a seasonally adjusted 530,000 last week. Economists expected a larger decline to 521,000.

However, the number of Americans receiving unemployment benefits on an ongoing basis dropped sharply by 148,000 to 5.8 million, below economists' expectations.

Unemployment and consumer spending remain the economy's biggest hurdles. Analysts said the market's renewed confidence following yesterday's GDP report could easily be shaken by the government's monthly employment report or retail sales, especially as the crucial holiday shopping season approaches.

In earnings news, Motorola Inc. shares climbed nearly 10 percent after the cell phone maker posted its second straight quarterly profit following months of heavy losses. The stock rose 78 cents to $8.74.

Five stocks rose for every one that fell on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume came to 1.5 billion shares compared with 1.7 billion Wednesday.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies rose 13.86, or 2.5 percent, to 580.22.



 

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