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Two-day rally lifts Dow past 11,000

The recovery pushes overseas markets higher, as well, though investors are anxious about the Fed's June 28-29 policy meeting.

Published June 16, 2006

NEW YORK - Wall Street rallied for a second straight session Thursday as strong earnings from Bear Stearns Cos. and mild economic data helped stocks regain their footing after several weeks of hefty losses. The Dow Jones industrials surged almost 200 points to surpass the closely watched 11,000 level.

Although the day's data gave mixed signals on economic growth, investors again brushed aside worries about inflation and interest rates following a month of selling that pulled the Dow down more than 8 percent. The Dow jumped 110 points Wednesday as investors came to terms with the likelihood that the Federal Reserve will raise rates this month.

The market turned sharply higher Thursday afternoon after Fed chairman Ben Bernanke said record energy and commodity prices could account for some of the recent uptick in core prices but that inflation expectations have remained within historical ranges.

The Fed chief said that in the short run, energy prices are likely to stay high given strong global demand and tight supplies.

"The days of persistently cheap oil and natural gas are likely behind us," Bernanke said.

Despite recent signs of a slowing economy, analysts say that inflationary pressures remain a risk and that higher interest rates could put a serious dent in economic growth. The Fed has said it would sacrifice growth to keep prices from rising.

"This looks mostly like a continued part of the rebound from the big selloff," said Ed Peters, chief investment officer at PanAgora Asset Management. He noted that the rally may have been driven by short sellers buying stocks to cover their positions following weeks of declines.

The Dow jumped 198.27, or 1.83 percent, to 11,015.19, finishing above the 11,000 mark for the first time since June 6. After shedding 186 points Monday and Tuesday to fall into the red for the first time this year, the Dow saw its best two-day run since April 2003, and the index is now back in positive territory for 2006.

Broader stock indicators also saw strong gains. The Standard & Poor's 500 index gained 26.12, or 2.12 percent, to 1,256.16, and the Nasdaq composite index surged 58.15, or 2.79 percent, to 2,144.15.

Wall Street's recovery led overseas stock markets higher. Japan's Nikkei stock average gained 1.13 percent, Britain's FTSE 100 added 2.04 percent, Germany's DAX index climbed 2.19 percent and France's CAC-40 gained 2.36 percent.

Despite two days of sturdy gains, some analysts were skeptical about whether Wall Street has finally reversed course.

Stocks are expected to remain volatile until the Fed issues its opinion on the economy's health at its June 28-29 policy meeting.

"I think the market is trying to look beyond any day's set of numbers and the next Fed comment and try to get a real assessment of how this inflection point in the economy is going to play out," said Jerry Webman, chief economist of Oppenheimer Funds. "The crosswinds are blowing in different directions - the question is how far they're going to push us."

In economic news, the Fed said May industrial production fell 0.1 percent, below estimates for a 0.2 percent rise and down sharply from a 0.8 percent jump the month before. The central bank also said capacity utilization dipped slightly to 81.7 percent.

Analysts said the slowdown in production of autos, appliances and other big ticket consumer items was consistent with a slower pace of consumer spending.

"Manufacturing output growth will slow in 2006 and 2007 as U.S. and global growth slows," said Cliff Waldman, an economist for the Manufacturers Alliance/MAPI. "But export growth and capital spending should stay strong enough to keep the factory expansion intact for at least the next few years."

The Labor Department also said first-time jobless claims dipped by 8,000 to 295,000 last week, although analysts maintained expectations for the job market to weaken in the coming months.

Bear Stearns' quarterly profit grew 83 percent to easily beat Wall Street estimates, lifted by strength in equity trading and fixed-income revenue. Bear Stearns swelled $7.36 to $131.56.

[Last modified June 16, 2006, 07:53:50]

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