A better-than-expected reading of the Consumer Confidence Index lifted the stock market's spirits today. For the third day in a row, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was in rally mode, while the Nasdaq Composite Index also moved higher.
The Dow ended up by more than 260 points.
Released this morning, the
confidence index for March came in at 117, compared with economists' forecasts of 104.2. The report raises Wall Street's hopes that consumer spending will come back since the index has been trending lower since July, when it was at a high of 143. But with this morning's data revealing relative economic strength, the
Federal Reserve is not likely to make an intermeeting interest rate cut, as many had expected.
Other forces at work on today's market include a good dose of window dressing, which happens when professional money managers tidy up their portfolios to post gains or clean up their list of holdings before a quarter's end. "Because the quarter ends on Friday, anything that's doing well is doing better," said Sam Gruntal, senior managing director of equity trading at
Among the stocks out in front of this afternoon's gains were well-known names such as,
, up 4.3% to $99.50,
, ahead 3% to $73.61,
Procter & Gamble
, higher by 2.9% to $62.18 and
, up 6.4% to $43.90.
On the sidelines of today's rally, blue-chip
Johnson & Johnson
dropped 2.5% to $83.25 after the company confirmed yesterday's reports that it is buying drug manufacturer
for $12 billion in stock. This is Johnson & Johnson's largest deal ever.
After dropping 5% yesterday on concerns about its outlook,
edged higher by 1.4% to $18.13. Other large-cap stocks were trading higher, too.
On the heels of recent gains, some Wall Street experts have been getting ready to call a bottom, but others still think the market will retest its lows since there has been no catalyst for the rallies. "Are people in this for the long haul or for the trade?" asked Bryan Piskorowski, market analyst at
. "The answer will unfold in the next few weeks."
Certainly, the earnings outlook isn't good. Shares of
, for example, were off 14.4% to $29.06 after it warned Monday after the close that its second-quarter revenue and earnings forecasts were, perhaps, a bit ambitious. And
was down 19.9% to $15.06 after it joined the list of repeat offenders on the warning front, lowering its first-quarter earnings
guidance for the second time in a month.
, up 1% to $27.34, and
, higher by 15% to $6.72, both
announced job cuts
early this morning.
In other economic news, the
durable goods orders report for February came in lower than expected. Production orders for big-ticket items, such as cars and appliances, was lower than expected in February, the government said this morning.
Durable goods orders fell 0.2% for the month, compared with economists' forecast for a 0.3% increase. But orders were stronger than they were in January, when they fell 7.3%, according to revised data released today. Excluding transportation, orders rose 0.5% in February.