Stocks blazed a path higher today, buoyed by a pair of well-received earnings reports from Dow components Intel and JPMorgan Chase. Economic news also provided a boost, with the Commerce Department noting that total retail sales climbed by a stronger-than-forecast 1.6% in March. Plus, consumer prices inched up by just 0.1% last month, said the Labor Department, supporting the case for policymakers to maintain record-low interest rates.
Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said that recovering demand should be "sufficient to promote a moderate economic recovery in coming quarters" -- though he warned that lawmakers must act quickly to address swelling budget deficits. Against this upbeat backdrop, all three major market indexes continued their quest for new highs.
In fact, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA – 11,123.11) closed within striking distance of its intraday peak at 11,125.22, which marked the Dow's highest price since Sept. 26, 2008. The blue-chip barometer settled on a gain of 103.7 points, or 0.9%, as 23 of its 30 components closed higher. Bank of America led the gainers, followed closely by JPMorgan Chase and Intel, while Merck set the pace for the seven declining Dow members.
The S&P 500 Index (SPX – 1,210.65) notched a technical milestone today, ending the session above 1,200 for the first time since Sept. 26, 2008. The SPX finished at its peak of the day, racking up a gain of 13.4 points, or 1.1%. Not to be outdone, the Nasdaq Composite (COMP – 2,504.86) conquered 2,500 on a daily closing basis for the first time since June 5, 2008, and settled squarely at its own session high. The tech-heavy COMP capitalized on Intel's halo lift to tack on 38.9 points, or 1.6%.
Year-to-date, the Dow is up 6.7%, the S&P has gained 8.6% and the Nasdaq has soared 10.4% as of Wednesday's close.
The S&P is up 77% from its March 9, 2009 low. However, the index remains 23.5% below the record high set Oct. 9, 2007.
Hot Stocks Reactions
Before Their Quarterly Earning Report
After a solid week's worth of hand-wringing about bloated crude inventories, traders were caught off-guard by today's bullish report on petroleum stockpiles. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) unexpectedly announced that crude supplies declined last week, defying expectations for another increase. Elsewhere, a weaker U.S. dollar and a solid day for the equities market also provided some positive momentum. As a result, oil futures effectively snapped a five-session losing streak, ending the day on a gain of $1.79, or 2.1%, at $85.84 per barrel.
Gold futures also enjoyed a daily gain, with the precious metal capitalizing on upbeat economic data. Strong retail sales in March and cautiously optimistic comments from Ben Bernanke diminished safe-haven demand for the U.S. dollar, which backpedaled against its key foreign rivals. As a result, traders rediscovered their appetite for riskier assets, including crude, stocks, and gold. By the close, gold for June delivery was up $5.60, or 0.5%, at $1,159 per ounce.
You think this is good? How about Bank of America?
Just wait till Goldman Sach quarterly earnings comes out