Stocks rise for fourth day in a row, led by retail

Posted: April 13, 2013

NEW YORK - Ross Stores and other retailers surged Thursday after turning in better sales, and major stock market indexes rose for a fourth straight day.

Discount chain Ross jumped 6 percent, the best gain in the Standard & Poor's 500 index. The company said stronger sales in March would likely push profits above its previous estimate this quarter. The stock jumped $3.56, to $63.80.

A surprising drop in claims for unemployment benefits last week encouraged investors. Analysts said it could mean a March slowdown in hiring may have been temporary.

"The numbers today make it seem like that March report was an anomaly," said David Heidl, a regional investment manager at U.S. Bank's wealth-management unit. "It's another reason for optimism."

The Dow Jones industrial average gained 62.90 points to close at 14,865.14, an increase of 0.4 percent. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 5.64 points, also 0.4 percent, to 1,593.37. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index rose 2.91 points to 3,300.16, just 0.09 percent.

Of the 10 industry groups in the S&P 500, information technology was the only one to fall. Makers of computer hardware and software sank on a report that first-quarter shipments of PCs dropped 14 percent worldwide over the last year, the steepest fall since International Data Corp. started tracking the industry in 1994.

"The IDC report is much worse than anyone expected," said David Brown, director of Sabrient Systems, an investment-research firm. "That's obviously shaking up the tech sector, but everything else is resuming the climb."

The three companies in the Dow that deal in PCs held the index back. Hewlett-Packard dropped 6 percent to $20.88, Microsoft lost 4 percent to $28.93, and Intel fell 2 percent to $21.82.

Without them, the Dow would have gained 25 more points.

It was a different story Wednesday, when technology stocks surged on optimism that businesses would step up spending on computer systems. That pushed the Dow and the S&P 500 index to their third straight day of gains, as well as record highs.

The stock market has soared this year, clearing new heights and recovering losses from the financial crisis and the recession. For the year, the Dow is up 13 percent, the S&P 500 index 12 percent.

Brown thinks the market can keep climbing. Measured against earnings, the stock market doesn't look expensive, he said.

And compared with alternatives like bonds or money-market funds, stocks in many corporations offer a better source of income. The average stock in the S&P 500 pays 2.2 percent in dividends.

By comparison, the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note was 1.79 percent Thursday, down slightly from 1.80 percent late Wednesday.

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