Stocks Ride Banks' Rise

The Dow soars 276 points after a reassuring earnings statement by Wells Fargo and another drop in oil prices helps quell investors' fears. Frank Curzio fills you in with The Real Story.
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Updated from 4:18 p.m. EDT

Stocks on Wall Street charged uphill to a glorious finish Wednesday as a reassuring earnings statement by

Wells Fargo

(WFC) - Get Report

helped quell investors' skittishness about the financial sector and crude oil prices fell substantially for the second day in a row.

The

Dow Jones Industrial Average

soared 276.74 points, or 2.5%, to 11,239.28, while the

S&P 500

was up 30.45 points, or 2.5%, to 1245.36. The

Nasdaq

jumped 69.14 points, or 3.1%, to 2284.85.

Wells Fargo delivered second-quarter earnings that were lower than the year-ago results but ahead of analyst expectations. The bank also announced it would raise its dividend 10%. Shares barreled up 33% to $27.23, taking much of the banking sector along for the ride.

State Street

(STT) - Get Report

and

USBancorp

(USB) - Get Report

, which delivered solid earnings yesterday, were rising today, as were larger banks

Citigroup

(C) - Get Report

,

Bank of America

(BAC) - Get Report

and

JPMorgan

(JPM) - Get Report

. Bank of America rose 22% to $22.63 even as Fitch Ratings cut its issuer default rating for the company, citing worsening credit and lending markets. Citigroup tacked on 13% to $16.47, and JPMorgan added 15% to $35.70.

State Street climbed 11% to $66.45, and USBancorp added 18% to $26.74.

Wells Fargo's earnings are important because the bank was based on the West Coast, where many of the most overpriced homes were built, said Marc Pado, U.S. market strategist at Cantor Fitzgerald. After numerous analyst warnings that this quarter would be grim for the financials, it was significant that Wells Fargo emerged with solid earnings.

"It's actually got coattails here," said Pado of the broad rise in the financials. He said that the problems are not over and that there are banks that were swept up in the Wells Fargo exuberance that didn't really deserve the positive attention. He said that once the larger banks such as Citigroup report, investors will be able to turn to other sectors of the market that are actually performing well, such as technology stocks and multinationals.

Following yesterday's announcement by the

Securities and Exchange Commission

that it was cracking down on naked short-selling of pummeled mortgage companies

Fannie Mae

and

Freddie Mac

, shares of both were soaring. Fannie finished 31% higher at $9.25, and Freddie jumped 30% to $6.83. The two had been the focal point of the market's recent declines as the government developed a plan this weekend to offer support to their capital levels.

Federal Reserve

Chairman Ben Bernanke made his second appearance before Congress in two days. He reaffirmed the Fed's commitment to increasing stability in the financial markets as he defended the plan to intervene on behalf of Fannie and Freddie. He said the government-sponsored entities are well-capitalized and are not in danger of failing.

CNBC

reported shortly before the close that

Merrill Lynch

(MER)

would sell its stake in

Bloomberg

for $4.5 billion. Merrill ended the day up 13% at $28.

A rise in oil inventories contributed to today's decline in oil prices. After falling more than $6 in Tuesday's session, the largest daily decline since 1991, crude ended the day down $4.14 at $134.60. Oil inventories for the week ended July 12 increased by 3 million barrels. Distillate inventories rose 3.2 million barrels, and gasoline inventories rose by 2.4 million barrels.

The inventory numbers alone didn't tell the whole story, said Pado. After crack spreads had narrowed so dramatically, investors were surprised that the refineries didn't cut back on production, he said. He said that a drop in the demand for gasoline is showing that at $4 a gallon, people stop driving, and that reveals a key price point.

Gold prices fell $16 to finish at $962.70.

After Tuesday's close, technology bellwether

Intel

(INTC) - Get Report

reported a second-quarter profit of $1.6 billion, or 28 cents a share, up from 22 cents a share in the year-ago quarter and ahead of analysts' expectations. Intel shares added 1% to $20.91.

Railroad service provider

CSX

(CSX) - Get Report

also reported following the close, delivering in-line pro forma earnings of $365 million, or 89 cents a share, up from 71 cents a share a year ago. The stock popped 6.1% to $61.41.

The arrival of the new day brought with it more earnings.

Delta

(DAL) - Get Report

posted a profit, excluding one-time charges, of 35 cents a share, beating the consensus estimate culled by Thomson Financial. American Airlines operator

AMR

(AMR)

also bettered estimates. Delta skyrocketed 29% to $6.02, and AMR added 30% to $5.75.

Drug company

Abbott Laboratories

(ABT) - Get Report

announced that its profit rose 34% year over year to $1.32 billion, or 85 cents a share, beating expectations of 79 cents a share. Shares slipped 1.5% to close at $56.97.

Among materials companies, iron-ore provider

Cleveland-Cliffs

(CLF) - Get Report

said it will buy coal miner

Alpha Natural Resources

(ANR)

for $10 billion in cash and stock. Cleveland-Cliffs dropped 6.7% to $104.02, while Alpha Natural jumped 11% to $104.93.

Over in the energy patch, which was broadly hurting on falling oil,

Chesapeake Energy

(CHK) - Get Report

led the decliners, losing 4.7% to end at $56.67.

Sunoco

(SUN) - Get Report

beat the trend, rising as it named former

Royal Dutch Shell

executive Lynn Laverty Elsenhans as its new CEO. Sunoco rose 1.9% to $34.46.

Traders have a hefty batch of economic data to contend with, as well. The Bureau of Labor Statistics' consumer price index rose 5% year over year, its biggest increase since May of 1991. Sequentially, the CPI rose 1.1% for June, up from 0.6% in May and above analysts' predictions of 0.7%. The core CPI figure increased 0.3% for June, up from a 0.2% increase for May.

The Fed reported a 0.5% increase in industrial production for June vs. a 0.2% decline in May. For the second quarter, production declined 3.1% sequentially. June capacity utilization increased to 79.9%, a reading that was ahead of economists' predictions of 79.4%.

Investors also got a look at the minutes from the June 25 Fed meeting, where the central bank had elected to leave its target interest rate unchanged at 2%. The Fed noted strong profits and cash flow outside of the financial sector, and its notes revealed concern about increasing inflation pressures due to the rise in oil, energy and food prices.

As for Treasuries, the 10-year note was losing 1-1/32 in price, yielding 3.95%. The 30-year was dropping 2 points to yield 4.59%. The dollar was holding its own against the euro and the pound, and dropping slightly against the yen.

World markets were mixed. London's FTSE was lower, while Frankfurt's DAX, Japan's Nikkei and Hong Kong's Hang Seng were edging higher.