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US stock markets post best week of 2012
US stocks rose for the fourth day in a row yesterday, capping their best week so far this year. It was a relief for investors after the big drops of the previous week. Stocks fell in morning trading, with the Dow Jones industrial average down almost 63 points. But they turned around after the government said businesses are restocking their shelves faster than analysts had expected.
The Commerce Department said US wholesale stockpiles grew 0.6 per cent in April. That’s twice as fast as they grew in March and a sign that businesses are ordering enough goods to lead to increased factory production and sales. Investors had been braced for more sluggish growth.
Oil fell 72 cents to US$84.10 per barrel. Sure, it was pushed down by long-term economic worries. But lower energy costs help consumers. “If you had some doubts about an economic recovery, oil in the US$80s is a lot better than oil at US$110,” said Jim Dunigan, managing executive of investments for PNC Wealth Management in Philadelphia. Oil traded just below US$110 in late February.
The Dow finished 93.24 points higher, or three-quarters of a per cent, at 12,554.20. It ended the week up almost 3.6 per cent. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 10.67 points, or 0.81 per cent, to close at 1,325.66. The Nasdaq composite rose 27.40 points, or 0.97 per cent, to close at 2,858.42. Nine out of the ten industry groups in the S&P 500 rose. Only energy stocks declined, following energy prices lower.
Wal-Mart Stores was the biggest gainer in the Dow, up US$2.35, or 3.6 per cent, at US$68.22. Other companies that depend heavily on a strong economy grew too, including Intel, up 47 cents, or 1.8 per cent, at US$26.41, and General Electric, up 20 cents, or one per cent, to US$19.20. Home Depot rose US$1.11, or 2.2 per cent, to US$52.35.
Facebook rose 79 cents, or three per cent, to US$27.10 after announcing an “app centre” that will recommend new add-on software for users. Anything that boosts user interaction is likely to help it sell more ads, which has been a key concern for investors in its new stock, which debuted three weeks ago at US$38.
Chesapeake Energy shareholders punished their directors and were rewarded by the market. The stock rose 51 cents, or 2.9 per cent, to US$18.36 after shareholder votes prompted the resignations of two directors at the company’s annual meeting yesterday. Earlier in the day the company said it will sell pipeline assets in three deals for a total of more than US$4 billion in cash.
Navistar International rose US$4.25, or 17.6 per cent, to US$28.36 after the activist investor Carl Icahn boosted his stake in the truck maker. Markets fell in Asia. Shanghai’s stock index lost 0.5 per cent, its fifth day of losses. Japan’s Nikkei fell 2.1 per cent.
Chinese leaders have been showing signs of urgency ahead of May trade and industrial data due out this weekend that might be even weaker than earlier pessimistic forecasts. The Chinese government cut interest rates for the first time in four years and has reduced gasoline and diesel prices for the second time in a month.
Over the long run, that will put more money in the pockets of Chinese consumers. In the short run it’s a sign that the government is worried about growth. “That shows they’re being proactive, but on the other hand, it also makes you wonder, what’s the data is really like?” said Uri Landesman, president of Platinum Partners. “I’m wondering how bad the data’s going to be. I’d be very surprised if it’s good.”
China is a key US trade partner so its growth is important to US companies. Its importance is magnified by the possibility that Europe’s economy will go from slow growth to shrinkage, Landesman said. Major European markets fell, although their declines were smaller after the US inventory news came out. France’s benchmark index lost 0.6 per cent, Britain’s and Germany’s each dropped 0.2 per cent.
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