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Stocks Twist, GM Shouts

The markets seemingly entered Superman's "Bizarro-World" Thursday. With (of all things) General Motors (GM) leading the way, the spotlight fell on the Dow Jones Industrial Average while the Nasdaq Composite and Russell 2000 lagged, as did several of the year's heretofore strongest stocks, commodities and related stocks.

GM rallied 10.06%, or $2.07, to end the day at $22.64, helping the Dow rise 64.12 points, or 0.57%, to 11,342.89, its highest close since January 2000.

GM's bonds were less bullish, but bumped up against their first-quarter highs. Its 8.75% bonds due 2033 gained about 1.5 points, or 1.5 cents on the dollar, quoted at a bid-offer midpoint of 74 cents on the dollar, according to MarketAxess. But the trading activity in its nearer-term maturities demonstrated the delinking (for now) of GM to bankruptcy after the two appeared together in about 150 news headlines over the course of the past six months. Its 7.125% bonds due in 2013 were up more sharply, up over 4 points at one point, and ending up 3.125 points, quoted at 74.125.

"There was somewhat of a perfect storm helping GM today,'' said Gregg Klein, high yield analyst at BNP Paribas.

Plagued by massive labor costs and legacy liabilities, GM reported first-quarter earnings absent any negative shocks -- a veritable victory despite missing Wall Street estimates. Its $323 million loss amounted to 57 cents a share, falling short of Wall Street estimates of a loss of 44 cents per share. Still, the loss pales in comparison to last year's first-quarter loss of $1.3 billion, or $2.22 per share.

Now, GM just has to get through the summer without a strike by bankrupt auto parts supplier Delphi's workers, and make it through 2007 and the next round of contract negotiations with the United Auto Workers. No easy task, but GM's insistence that it will meet these challenges and stave off a bankruptcy filing finally may be sinking in with investors -- maybe like the Fed's insistence that inflation is contained . The rhetoric over the UAW negotiations have mellowed of late, and the GM board's public vote of confidence in CEO Rick Wagoner last month have improved confidence in the company.

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