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The Baltimore Sun

Dow post third triple-digit gain

Associated Press

Wall Street reveled in stunning gains again Thursday, as the Dow Jones industrials surged more than 250 points, giving the blue chips their first three-day, triple-digit winning streak in 17 months.

The Dow closed up 256.07, or 3 percent, at 8,712.22. Combined with triple-digit gains in the previous two sessions, the Dow has climbed about 667 in three days.

The Dow had not seen three consecutive triple-digit wins since netting 558 points in the three sessions that ended March 27, 2001.

Still, analysts were guarded, refusing to declare that the market had finally bottomed out and was on a new upward path, saying that investors remain nervous about committing to stocks.

"There is still a very high level of anxiety on both sides," said Ned Riley, chief investment strategist at State Street Global Advisors. "There is anxiety that people are going to miss something spectacular on the upside, and there is anxiety that they are going to be caught in a vicious vortex of a bear market."

The broader market also finished higher. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 28.68, or 3.3 percent, to 905.45, following a two-day advance of 42.17.

The Nasdaq composite index advanced 35.42, or 2.8 percent, to 1,316.32, following a two-day gain of 74.89.

Wall Street welcomed the gains following last week’s string of weaker-than-expected economic data, which raised fears that the economy was slipping back into recession.

Analysts say the market is somewhat soothed by the possibility that the Federal Reserve will cut interest rates further at next week’s meeting or in September.

"The feeling is the Fed will be there with a safety net," said Alan Ackerman, executive vice president at Fahnestock & Co.

But analysts also cautioned against getting too enthusiastic by Wall Street’s buying spree, crediting much of it to technical factors such as short-covering.

In short-covering, investors who sold stock figuring the market was going to keep falling are forced to buy shares to cover their bets when the market turns higher.

"What is happening is more short-covering in a down market," said Al Mirman, strategist at V Finance Inc. in Sarasota, Fla. "I don’t think we have really seen the bottom.

"We are having short-term upswings in a down market," Mirman added. "And, quite frankly, we could see some difficult times for the balance of the year."

Among Thursday’s winners, Citigroup Inc. climbed $2.38, to $33.90, after saying it will begin charging stock options as an expense against earnings.

Several companies, including General Motors Corp. and General Electric Co., have said they will count options as expenses.

Intel Corp. rose 67 cents, to $18.39, despite saying that it would not charge stock options as a regular quarterly expense. The company said it would provide more details about its stock-option programs.

Retailing shares were mixed Thursday following reports that meager inventories and skittish consumers pinched July sales at many stores.

AnnTaylor Stores Corp. rose $2.23, to $26.36, after raising its outlook for the second and third quarters.

And Urban Outfitters Inc. surged $3.76, to $24.69, after it reported that same-store sales -- those at outlets open at least one year -- rose 11 percent and raised its second-quarter earnings forecast.

But Best Buy Inc. plunged 36.5 percent, by $11.25, to $19.55, after cutting its second-quarter earnings outlook, citing flat same-store sales for the past four weeks.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners more than 2-to-1 on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume was moderate.

The Russell 2000 index, the barometer of smaller-company stocks, rose 6.37, or 1.7 percent, to 389.84.

Overseas, Japan’s Nikkei stock average finished Thursday down 0.4 percent, while stocks rose sharply in Europe.

France’s CAC-40 and Britain’s FTSE 100 each rose 3.6 percent, and Germany’s DAX index surged 6.2 percent.

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