Wall Street shot higher today as investors, while anticipating another dismal jobs report on Friday, viewed the rising dollar and falling oil prices as promising for the economy. The Dow Jones industrial average rose nearly 190 points to finish above 13,000 for the first time since January 3.
The long-suffering dollar rose again on better-than-expected economic data and the Federal Reserve’s apparent resolve to monitor inflation. The Commerce Department said consumer spending rose 0.4 per cent in March, more than predicted, and the Institute for Supply Management said US manufacturing contracted in April by a bit less than anticipated.
The readings were not all positive – consumer spending rose mainly due to rising prices for energy and food. The ISM’s report also indicated that materials costs are hurting companies.
But the dollar rallied anyway, pushing the euro down more than one per cent to 1.5458 dollars in late trading. Trading was thin, with the major currency markets in London and elsewhere closed for the May Day holiday, but the dollar’s advance helped crude oil fall briefly below 111 dollars a barrel and then settle at 112.52 dollars. That alleviated some of the inflation-related anxieties in the market, given that crude recently traded near a record 120 dollars a barrel.
“I don’t know if it’s all turned around, but I think oil got out of control,” said Todd Leone, managing director of equity trading at Cowen & Co.
The dollar’s rise comes a day after the Fed lowered key interest rates by a quarter-point, but suggested the economy should keep growing moderately, while inflation is the growing concern.
“What we’re seeing is that maybe the economy is not falling off a cliff, but perhaps levelling off,” said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at New York-based brokerage house Avalon Partners Inc. “I think the Fed (rate-cutting campaign) is over with, even though the Fed’s statement didn’t say that.”
The economic assessment statement accompanying the Fed’s rate decision was unclear about its policy going forward, but it has been widely believed that the central bank would pause following a string of cuts that lowered rates by three percentage points since last summer.
On Thursday, banks, homebuilders, chip makers and retailers surged, after getting battered earlier this year due to worries about the mortgage crisis and its effect on the global economy.
The Dow rose 189.87, or 1.48 per cent, to 13,010.00, after briefly rising more than 200 points.
Broader stock indicators also advanced. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 23.75, or 1.71 per cent, to 1,409.34 – its first settlement above 1,400 since January 14. The Nasdaq composite index climbed 67.91, or 2.81 per cent, to 2,480.71, its highest close since January 10.