Blue-chip stocks soared higher Thursday, with the Dow Jones industrial average climbing just shy of 500 points to record its biggest one-day point gain ever.
The Dow closed up a stunning 499.19 points, at 10,630.60, extending a 320-point gain on Wednesday that represented its biggest surge in 17 months. The Dow's previous one-day record point gain was 380.53 on Sept. 8, 1998.
The Dow soared Thursday, as blue-chip stocks fell back into favor among investors|
The euphoria lifted technology stocks, which had driven the Nasdaq down 465 points in the past three sessions. The Nasdaq ended up 134.67 at 4,717.29, having clawed back from an earlier loss of 127 points. At its low point today, the index was down 11.8 percent.
Asian Markets Rise
Following Wall Street's lead, Asia's top three stock markets rose sharply Friday.
In Japan, stocks roared ahead at the opening and remained solidly higher by the midday
break. The Nikkei 225 Stock Average was 160.47 points, or 0.83
percent higher, at 19,413.70 points.
Markets in Hong Kong and Singapore also opened strong. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index jumped 331.71 points, or 2.03 percent, during the morning session. In Singapore, shares opened sharply higher Friday, with the Straits Times Index rising 2.6 percent from Wednesday's close. The market was closed Thursday for a holiday.
Wall St. Investors Return to Stocks
A wide range of stocks led the Dow higher. American Express, Johnson & Johnson and 3M all were up, after being beaten down in recent weeks.
Investors poured money back into stocks after docile inflation data eased fears of sharply higher borrowing costs. Traders said the market increases also were accentuated because of Friday's simultaneous expiration of options and futures in stocks and
stocks indexes, a volatility-boosting occurrence known as "triple witching."
"Some of the wall flowers are dancing again," Richard Babson, chairman and president of Babson-United Investment Advisors Inc. in Watertown, Mass., said of the blue chips' rally.
"We're coming up to an end of a quarter and part of it is some rebalancing in portfolios. The Fed may raise interest rates on Tuesday but there is some feeling that they may not have to raise rates very far."
While Wall Street analysts rejoiced in the rally, few were
willing to guess how long it will last.
"It's too soon to tell whether this is anything more than a short-term head fake," said David G. Sowerby, vice president at Loomis, Sayles & Co. "But a wide range of stocks are participating
and it looks very good."
|Broker John Russell writes an order at the New York Stock Exchange during the last half-hour of trading Thursday|
Federal Reserve to Meet Next Week
The Federal Reserve's rate-setting committee meets on Tuesday to decide whether to raise interest rates to ward off inflation, with Wall Street fairly confident the central bank
will deliver only a modest, quarter of a percentage point hike.
The market got an early lift from wholesale inflation data indicating little inflation pressure in the economy, excluding volatile energy prices.
According to the report, the Producer Price Index rose by 1 percent in February, sharply higher than the 0.5 percent expected by economists. But the "core" PPI, which leaves out
volatile food and energy prices, rose 0.3 percent instead of the 0.2 percent anticipated.
Housing stocks were among the top gainers after economic
data showed that construction starts on new homes and apartments
rose to the fastest pace in 13 months in February, as demand for
new homes remained strong despite higher mortgage rates.
Pharmaceutical stocks surged in heavy trading after Bear Stearns said the entire industry is poised to show strong earnings growth, accelerated by consolidation. Bristol Myers Squibb, Merck and Schering-Plough Corp. all posted gains.
Also helping markets, analysts said, was a stabilization in
oil prices on anticipation of an OPEC deal to increase supplies next month.
Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report