Wall Street has — at least for the moment — shrugged off some of its many concerns and bounded higher today, thanks to a drop...
NEW YORK — Wall Street has — at least for the moment — shrugged off some of its many concerns and bounded higher today, thanks to a drop in oil prices.
The Dow Jones industrial average rallied 276.74, or 2.5 percent, to close at 11,239.28, its biggest jump in more than three months. That reversed Tuesday’s trend, when stocks ended mostly lower on continuing worries about the financial sector and the Dow logged its first close below 11,000 since July 2006.
Microsoft, one of the 30 Dow stocks, soared $1.11 today to close at $27.26. Boeing, also a Dow stock, gained $1.70 to $65.58.
Broader stock indicators also rose after fluctuating in the early going. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index advanced 30.45, or 2.5 percent, to 1,245.36, and the Nasdaq composite index rose 69.14, or 3.1 percent, to 2,284.85.
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Investors were relieved when crude fell $4.14 to settle at $134.60 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. That brought oil’s two-day plunge to more than $10.
Wells Fargo’s decision to boost its dividend is also alleviating some of the market’s concerns about the health of banks. The San Francisco-based bank’s move to raise its payout to investors is being seen as a bullish sign for the troubled banking sector.
Still, the Labor Department’s report that consumer prices shot up in June at the second fastest pace in 26 years is reminding investors that rising prices still pose a threat to economic growth.
Investors also remain worried about the economy and specifically the financial sector. This week has brought fresh attention to potential trouble spots in the mortgage market. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-chartered mortgage financiers, remain a concern, as do regional banks that could have bad mortgage debt on their books.
But, for the moment, investors were pleased by the drop in oil — whose ascent to record levels had raised concerns about inflation and its impact on the broader economy.
“I think the pullback in oil is significant. The market and the market participants clearly had digested what the impact was going to be if oil prices had stayed at that level,” said Dan Genter, president and chief investment officer of RNC Genter in Los Angeles.
While today’s advance likely indicates some enthusiasm among investors it can also reflect simple bargain hunting and traders laying down a few bets rather than any great change in conviction. With many quarterly reports due in the coming weeks, many investors remain uncertain about the health of the economy.
Bond prices declined. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which moves opposite its price, jumped to 3.94 percent from 3.82 percent late Tuesday.
Oil prices declined after Energy Department figures showed that domestic inventories of crude oil and gasoline rose last week, rather than declining as analysts had expected.
“I think what you’re seeing is people are feeling more confident that civilization as we know it is not going to cease to exist and that we’re going to make a landing here,” Genter said of the decline in oil. “The negative is there is not much of a catalyst here to really pick us up and get us back in the air.”
The Labor Department’s report that its consumer price index rose 1.1 percent in June came as economists had expected a gain of 0.8 percent. Two-thirds of the increase is linked to surging energy prices. The core reading, which excludes often volatile food and energy costs, ticked up 0.3 percent.
Wall Street has been concerned in recent months that rising prices for necessities like food and fuel would force investors to curb their spending in other areas. A pullback is a disturbing prospect for investors as consumer spending accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity. In addition, rising prices could lead the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates, a move that risks derailing economic growth by making access to capital more expensive.
Beyond the inflation reading, which follows a report Tuesday that showed a 1.8 percent increase in wholesale prices for June, investors examined a Fed report that industrial production rose 0.5 percent in June after declining 0.2 percent in May. The increase was the highest since a 0.6 percent gain in July of last year.
Minutes from the last month’s meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee, the arm of the Fed that sets interest rates, indicated that policymakers believed that the next move on rates would be an increase. The Fed in June broke a string of reductions by leaving rates unchanged, a recognition that lower rates had weighed on the dollar and led to increases in commodities such as oil and food.
But given the big developments in the financial system over the past several days, the minutes were largely regarded by the market as old news.