Sun, Nov 14, 2004 - Page 10 News List

Consumer report boosts Wall Street

CONFIDENCE Stocks advanced as the latest retail sales figures showed that consumers' view of the economy was improving, just in time for the holiday shopping season


Wall Street closed its third straight winning week with another rally on Friday, advancing as a new retail sales report and a consumer sentiment reading showed that Americans are growing more confident about the economy.

The latest Commerce Department report said retail sales rose 0.2 percent last month, a respectable gain considering that automobile sales dropped 2.2 percent. Without auto sales, retail sales would have been up a healthy 0.9 percent, although lack of spending on such big-ticket items worried some investors.

Stabilizing crude oil futures once again helped stocks. A barrel of light crude settled at US$47.32, down US$0.10, on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

"The retail report, along with oil and the elections and the economy, they've all contributed to a very nice run we've had, and should continue to have through the end of the year," said Hans Olsen, managing director and chief investment officer at Bingham Legg Advisers in Boston. "But oil, in particular, could still be a problem. It's been driven by demand, not by problems with supply, and a big spike in demand or a big supply problem on top of that could be a big shock to the system."

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 69.17, or 0.66 percent, to 10,539.01. It was the Dow's best close since April 6, and the index also climbed back into positive territory for the year to date.

Broader stock indicators also advanced, with the Standard & Poor's 500 index posting a new two-and-a-half-year high. The S&P 500 was up 10.69, or 0.91 percent, at 1,184.17, its best close since Aug. 24, 2001. The index had hit its first post-9/11 high on Thursday.

The NASDAQ composite index gained 24.07, or 1.17 percent, to 2,085.34, its best showing since Feb. 11.

Wall Street finished its third straight week in positive territory thanks to broad buying across all sectors. While the post-election rally continued, the exuberance of investors in the past two weeks was replaced by more caution, though lower oil prices and a reassuring statement from the Federal Reserve helped fuel steady buying.

For the week, the Dow gained 1.46 percent, the S&P 500 rose 1.54 percent and the NASDAQ climbed 2.28 percent.

Analysts said Friday's retail sales figures showed that consumers' view of the economy was improving just in time for the holiday shopping season. That was confirmed by the University of Michigan's consumer sentiment index, which posted a preliminary 95.5 reading for November, up from 91.7 last month and far better than the 93 reading Wall Street had expected.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies was up 5.68, or 0.92 percent, at 621.98.

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