Updated from 11:25 a.m. EST
Stocks in New York continued to track upward into Wednesday afternoon as investors eyed the final trading hours of the 2008 trading year.
Dow Jones Industrial Average
was up 114 points at 8741, and the
was gaining 11 points at 898. The
was adding 24 points at 1568.
The market got an unusual dose of data Wednesday morning that at face value was better than expected. The number of people seeking
fell to 492,000 from 586,000 a week prior and well below economists' expectation for 575,000. However, "seasonal factor volatility" played a part according to the Department of Labor.
"Until there's more clarity, I would not yet put jobless claims on a list of figures suggesting the worst has thus far been seen. It is a list that remains nearly empty," writes Tony Crescenzi, chief bond market strategist for Miller Tabak, on his
In other data Wednesday, mortgage application volume was fairly steady over the last week, after a 48% rise the week prior. The purchase index, which includes conventional mortgages and government-insured mortgages, was 320.90 in the latest week, up from 316.50 the previous week.
"Mortgage applications for many weeks had been sliding, reaching their lowest in eight years two weeks ago, reflecting an increase in mortgage rates, falling home prices, poor employment conditions and the realization amongst prospective home buyers that mortgage credit has become more difficult to obtain," writes Crescenzi.
But borrowers are taking advantage of Interest rates that plummeted last month after the
said it would buy up to $600 billion in mortgage-backed securities and other debt issued by government-controlled mortgage giants
"Today's and recent data suggest there is potential for relief in the housing crisis, and the relief could grow if the Federal Reserve fulfills its threat to expand its initiative to purchase agency and mortgage-backed securities," writes Crescenzi.
Economic news earlier in the week was bad as expected, with terrible retail sales data, the worse yet consumer sentiment numbers,and an 18% drop in the S&P/Case-Shiller home price index.
"Yet the market shrugged off all of the above and rose," writes Vince Farrell, chief investment officer at Soliel Securities Corp. "When markets can do that, it's possible that the bad news has been fully discounted."
Meanwhile, in one of the most disturbing stories of 2008, disgraced investor
is scheduled to submit a list of his personal assets to the
Securities and Exchange Commission
on Wednesday, including property that could be tapped to make restitution to victims of his $50 billion Ponzi scheme. The document, of obvious interest to the victims of the scheme, will not be made public, according to the SEC.
In a sign of the times, Lake Superior State University included "bailout" and the "Wall Street/Main Street" dyad in its list of banished words for 2009.
Fitting in one last
in 2008, the Treasury Department said Tuesday it will provide $5 billion to
GMAC Financial Services
, GM's auto and mortgage financing arm, in return for preferred shares that pay an 8% dividend and warrants to purchase additional shares.
In corporate news,
said it will pick up a 25% stake in Aberdeen Asset Management in exchange for its traditional fund management business.
said that it will rejigger its executive lineup as part of its global restructuring. The company said Michael Cannon, president of global operations, and Mark Jarvis, chief marketing officer, will leave the company.
Also, the world's third-largest independent chemical company, LyondellBasell Industries, has informed lenders that a Chapter 11 filing might be in its future, according to a report in
The Wall Street Journal
In commodities, oil was recently up $1.90 at $40.93 a barrel, while gold added $7.30 to $877.30 an ounce -- both reversing from falling prices earlier in the day.
Longer-dated U.S. Treasury securities were recently falling. The 10-year note was giving up 1 22/32 to yield 2.2%, and the 30-year was down 3 03/32, yielding 2.7%. The dollar was stronger against the euro and the yen, and weaker against the pound.
Overseas, the FTSE in London was edging higher, and the Hong Kong's Hang Seng ended with gains.
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