Stocks Stride Higher, Oil Closes Down - TheStreet

Stocks Stride Higher, Oil Closes Down

An upwardly revised read of the GDP, a drop in unemployment and a decline in oil prices prompts a buying spree on Wall Street.
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Updated from 2:26 p.m. EDT

Stocks in New York continued to build on impressive gains Thursday following the release of better-than-anticipated GDP data, a bullish economic read that's stoking investor confidence. A decline in the price of crude oil and a decline in unemployment numbers also provided a boost to the markets.

The

Dow Jones Industrial Average

was rising 186 points to 11,689, and the

S&P 500

was climbing 11 points to 1293. The

Nasdaq

was tacking on 28 points to 2411.

On the economic-data front, the Bureau of Economic Analysis' second-quarter GDP number was revised upward, assuaging fears that the economy is veering toward reflection. The updated number reflected growth of 3.3% rather than an initial reading of 1.9%. The new figure was well ahead of analysts' forecast of 2.7%. Jobless claims for the week ended Aug. 23 came in at 425,000, in line with expectations and down from 435,000 in the previous week.

The improvement in the GDP number owes an improving trade balance and increased consumer spending, Peter Morici, professor of international business at the University of Maryland, wrote in an email. A weak dollar helped prop up exports, but "with growth slowing in Europe, Japan, China, and elsewhere and the dollar recovering a bit, it is questionable whether export strength will continue," he wrote.

The bump in consumer spending was largely assisted by the economic stimulus package, wrote Morici. The effects of that government initiative are not probably done now and consumption should slow from here, he wrote. He predicted a bottom in the U.S. economy during the fourth quarter of 2008 and the first quarter of 2009, thanks in part to continued growth in productivity.

After the market close Wednesday, struggling mortgage finance company

Fannie Mae

(FNM)

said it's

reorganizing senior management

. Fannie and its sister company,

Freddie Mac

(FRE)

, have been at the center of the financial storm stemming from mortgage-related credit losses.

Meanwhile, municipal bond insurer

MBIA

(MBI) - Get Report

, which has suffered after losing its triple-A credit status earlier this year, said it would back $184 billion in bonds for Financial Guaranty. The move, which demonstrates that the company can secure business despite its credit downgrade sent MBIA shares higher.

Showing more wear and tear was financial services provider

Lehman Brothers

(LEH)

, which announced it will lay off 1,500 employees, or 6% of its workforce.

In corporate earnings, home-products retailer

Sears Holding

(SHLD)

announced a quarterly profit that declined from last year and missed analyst expectations.

Luxury retailer

Tiffany

(TIF) - Get Report

, meanwhile, showed the Street rising profits and beat earnings estimates.

Zale's

(ZLC)

losses were narrower than expected. Both companies offered rosy guidance for the holiday season.

Elsewhere, construction-equipment manufacturer

Caterpillar

(CAT) - Get Report

said it's expecting record sales this year on skyrocketing demand in China.

Automaker

Toyota

(TM) - Get Report

, on the other hand, cut its 2009 revenue projections on declining U.S. demand for its heavier vehicles.

Shifting to commodities, crude oil fell $2.56 to settle at $115.59. This week, traders have been monitoring Tropical Storm Gustav, which could cause supply disruptions along the Gulf Coast. Gold added $3.20 to $837.20.

Shell Oil

said it may curtail output as it tries to evacuate workers in its Gulf oil fields by the end of the weekend.

ConocoPhillips

(COP) - Get Report

,

Transocean

(RIG) - Get Report

and

BP

(BP) - Get Report

also announced partial evacuations from drilling operations.

Looking at Treasuries, the 10-year was down 2/32, yielding 3.77%. The 30-year was climbing 7/32 to yield 4.37%. The dollar was gaining on the euro and the pound but falling vs. the yen.

Overseas markets were mixed. The FTSE in London, the Dax in Frankfurt and the Nikkei in Japan traded higher, while the Hang Seng in Hong Kong lost ground.