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Scorching-hot stocks thrive on positive indicators

| Thursday, April 15, 2010

NEW YORK -- Upbeat forecasts from JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Intel Corp. propelled the stock market higher for a fifth day.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index topped the 1,200 mark Wednesday for the first time in a year and a half. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 104 points and moved above 11,100.

The good news came from all directions: Corporate earnings numbers and government reports on retail sales and regional economic conditions indicated that the recovery is taking hold.

One of the biggest forces behind the market's climb came from JPMorgan Chase, which reported a better-than-expected profit for the January-March quarter. The bank is still facing big losses from souring consumer loans, but CEO Jamie Dimon said there have been clear improvements in the economy.

JPMorgan rose 4.1 percent.

A Commerce Department report that retail sales rose more than expected in March added to a sense that consumers are feeling more comfortable spending.

The Federal Reserve said its survey of regional economic activity found that business was getting better in most areas of the country. The report offered a brighter assessment of the economy than the previous survey in early March.

The Dow rose 103.69, or 0.9 percent, to 11,123.11. The Dow closed over 11,000 on Monday for the first time since September 2008. It is up 2.1 percent in five days, its best advance since early March.

The S&P 500 index rose 13.35, or 1.1 percent, to 1,210.65. It was the best gain since March 5. Like the Dow, the S&P 500 index is at its best level since September 2008, when the financial crisis began. The S&P 500 index is up 79 percent from a 12-year low in March last year though it would still need to gain 22.7 percent to reach its October 2007 high of 1,565.

The Nasdaq rose 38.87, or 1.6 percent, to 2,504.86. It hasn't been above 2,500 since June 2008. The Nasdaq has nearly doubled since last March but it is still down by half from its peak of 5,048.62 in March 2000.

The stronger signs about the economy hurt bond prices and raised yields. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note rose to 3.87 percent from 3.82 percent late Tuesday.

The dollar fell against other major currencies, while gold rose.

Crude oil rose $1.79 to $85.84 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

JPMorgan and Intel were the biggest gainers among the 30 stocks that make up the Dow industrials. JPMorgan rose $1.86, or 4.1 percent, to $47.73. Intel climbed 75 cents, or 3.3 percent, to $23.52.

CSX, the nation's third largest railroad, rose $2.18, or 4.1 percent, to $55.46 after reporting a 20 percent increase in its first-quarter earnings. The company said it has seen "gradual and steady growth" in the economy. It has also started hiring.

The government offered investors more signs the economy is improving. Retail sales rose 1.6 percent in March, the third consecutive month of growth. That was bigger than the increase of 1.2 percent economists had expected, according to Thomson Reuters.

The Consumer Price Index, a measure of inflation at the retail level, rose 0.1 percent in March. That was in line with economists' forecast.

Health care, consumer staples and utilities stocks lagged after traders grew more confident about the economy. These industries are seen as safe in weak economies but fall out of favor when business growth is expected to increase.

About three stocks rose for every one that fell on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume came to 1.1 billion shares, in line with Tuesday.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies rose 15.37, or 2.2 percent, to 722.40.

Britain's FTSE 100 gained 0.6 percent, Germany's DAX index rose 0.8 percent, and France's CAC-40 rose 0.6 percent. Japan's Nikkei stock average rose 0.4 percent.

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