Stocks, Bonds Sprinting Ahead After tame ECI

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By Justin Lahart
Staff Reporter

The

Employment Cost Estimate

is in and traders like what they see.

Wages, salaries and benefits are up 0.6% for the first quarter, far below the 0.9% that economists expected.

"We got a real good number," says one trader.

No kidding. The ECI cheered the futures and bond markets. The

S&P 500

futures, down before the number came out, are up 8.95, well above fair value. The 30-year Treasury bond is soaring -- it's up 1 6/32 at 95 6/32, driving the yield down to 7.014%. What happens if it breaks 7.00? March

Durable Goods Order

down 3% (a opposed to expectations of a flat number) added to the general giddiness.

"We'll follow the bond market higher," says one trader. "Still Friday's important. I'm not sure this one number will change the tide, but it will certainly get things going in the right direction." April employment figures come out on Friday.

Traders expect interest rate-sensitive and cyclical stocks to do especially well off today's number.

Pharmacia & Upjohn

reported first-quarter earnings of 37 cents a share, 2 cents shy of

First Call

expectations

PepsiCo

(PEP) - Get Report

posted first-quarter earnings of 27 cents a share, 3 cents ahead of estimates.

Tenneco

(TEN) - Get Report

reported first-quarter earnings of 44 cents a share, 6 cents a share.

Tokyo's markets are closed today in observance of

Midori No Hi

, which, contrary to some people's conjecture, is not a celebration of Japanese figure skater

Midori Ito

, but of the old Emperor's birthday.

Nervousness about today's U.S. economic data and a sell-off in red-chips knocked a bit out of the Hong Kong stock market today. The

Hang Seng

slumped 9.75 to close at 12,600.42.

Wall Street's gains yesterday and the continued strength of the dollar (so much for the

Group of Seven

) have given German shares a boost. The

Dax

closed at 3383.18, up 20.12.

In London, traders took time out from betting on who the Conservative leader will be after Labour's expected win in Thursday's general election (Michael Heseltine, Michael Howard, Michael Portillo are tied with the odds at 7/2 -- at least we have a good idea of what the new leader's first name will be) to send the

FTSE

above 4,400 for the first time since March 13. Volume remains low ahead of the election, and investors are skittish about the expected, post-election U.K. rate-hike. The FTSE is up 4407.50, up 17.80. The index has gained more than 20 points since the ECI came out.