Stocks surge after good news from Dell, Alcoa
NEW YORK (AP) – Stock prices shot higher Thursday, propelling the Dow Jones industrial average up more than 400 points, after Dell Computer and Alcoa gave Wall Street its first really good earnings news in months.
The advance was a welcome relief for a market yearning for an end to Wall Street’s protracted slump. But some analysts, noting that most first-quarter earnings reports will still be disappointing, cautioned that the market remains vulnerable to declines.
The Dow rose 402.63, or 4.2 percent, to close at 9,918.05.
The index’s run-up was its second-largest daily point gain, after the 499.19 it rose on March 16, 2000. Despite the big advance, the Dow has gained less than 40 points this week, having plunged 392 over Monday and Tuesday.
The Nasdaq composite index also soared, rising 146.20, or 8.9 percent, to 1,785.00, posting its third-largest daily percentage gain.
The Standard & Poor’s 500 climbed 48.19, or 4.4 percent, to 1,151.44.
News that Dell expected to meet its previous earnings estimates got an enthusiastic welcome on Wall Street, which has been pounded in recent months by seemingly endless profit warnings and layoff announcements. The tech bellwether, whose previous warnings sent stocks tumbling, said late Wednesday it still expects to report about $8 billion in revenue and earnings of 17 cents a share.
Dell, the nation’s top producer of desktop and laptop computers, surged $3 to $25.19.
Aluminum producer Alcoa, a Dow stock, added to the market’s upward momentum, announcing Thursday it earned 46 cents a share in the first quarter, 2 cents more than analysts expected. Alcoa rose $1.95 to $37.50. Other Old Economy stocks advanced, including Dow stock 3M, up $4.61 at $103.23.
”Hopefully this will be a catalyst,” for stocks to move higher, said Barry Berman, head trader for Robert W. Baird & Co. in Milwaukee. But, he added, ”I’m not sure how much good news you need. You just need to get through this first-quarter reporting period and see a stop in the daily battering of bad news.”
Dell’s news helped other tech issues move higher. Dow stock Intel, which announced last month it was cutting prices on some of its chips to reduce inventory, rose $3 to $25.63. Intel supplies Dell with chips.
Yahoo! climbed $2.75, a 22 percent increase, to $15.25 after its stock was upgraded by Lehman Brothers.
Wall Street analysts have said it will also take some solid, positive earnings news from companies to help stocks rebound. And with companies’ bad news still outweighing the good, some analysts cautioned Thursday against holding onto hope that the market is headed for recovery.
”I don’t know that it sets the stage for a brand new bull market,” said Charles White, portfolio manager for Avatar Associated. ”Bear markets have rallies in them. It’s not uncommon for a market to rally 10 or 15 percent and for it to be a false move.”
White also pointed out that many companies including Dell have said they don’t know how to anticipate future earnings. While standing by its expectations for first-quarter results, Dell cautioned that there is still a month left in its quarter and offered no comment on how it expects to perform for the entire year.
Meanwhile, Federal Express, down 63 cents at $38.97, had some sobering news, saying it is lowering its fourth-quarter earnings estimates. FedEx offered no specific figures.
Many blue chip and tech stocks, however, appeared poised to make a strong advance Friday. IBM, for example, rose $1.69 in extended-hours trading, building on the $6.21 climb to $98.21 it made in the regular session. Philip Morris was up 48 cents in after-hours dealings after advancing 61 cents to close Thursday at $46.23.
For stocks to sustain an advance, White said, ”It’s going to be more about what (companies) can say about the future.”
The market was so focused on the brighter spots that it ignored a negative unemployment report. The Labor Department announced earlier that new claims for state jobless insurance jumped by 18,000 to a seasonally adjusted 383,000 last week to their highest level since 1998, indicating softer demand for labor.
Advancing issues outnumbered decliners nearly 3 to 1 on the New York Stock Exchange where consolidated volume was 1.59 billion shares, compared with 1.51 billion on Wednesday.
The Russell 2000 index, which tracks the performance of smaller company stocks, advanced 18.99 to 444.73.
Stocks posted strong gains overseas, as well. Japan’s Nikkei stock average closed up 1.1 percent. In Europe, Germany’s DAX index soared 3.2 percent, Britain’s FT-SE 100 advanced 1.6 percent, and France’s CAC-40 climbed 1.7 percent.
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