Barring any declines Friday, the
looks set to post a gain for an eighth-straight week -- a feat not accomplished since early 1998 -- and analysts say they don't see any signs that the momentum is about to fade.
As of Wednesday's close, the Dow Jones Industrial Average had gained 1.4% for the week, while the
had jumped 1.2% and the
had added 0.8%. The Dow is now up 22.5% since its low on Oct. 9.
The shortened holiday week got off to a slow start on Monday, with the major averages posting only modest gains. But the action was seen as constructive nonetheless, particularly given the strength of the prior weeks and given an analyst downgrade on
The winning streak was halted briefly on Tuesday, despite a seemingly strong third-quarter gross domestic product report. But the pessimism didn't last long, and a barrage of economic reports on Wednesday once again gave investors reason to cheer.
"Economic revival and hopes for an earnings pickup is the take-away from this morning's data," said Bryan Piskorowski, a market analyst at Prudential Securities.
Particularly encouraging to analysts were the weekly jobless claims, which fell to a 21-month low in the latest week, and consumer spending, which saw its biggest jump in three months. In separate reports, the Chicago Purchasing Managers Index showed expansion in October, and durable goods orders jumped 2.8% -- the first increase since July.
"People are starting to believe that a short-term trend may be in place," said Ben Hovermale, head of equity trading at Victory Capital Management. "But it may be a bit too early to say that."
Indeed, not all economists were as enamored with Wednesday's data as investors appeared to be. What's more, other reports have shown that the economy continues to struggle. The Help Wanted Advertising Index for October weakened to 40.0% from 43.0% in September, and the Fed's Beige Book report said the economy grew slowly in October and November. Consumer sentiment numbers also proved to be disappointing this week, showing only muted improvement from their lows in October.
Still, investors did a good job of brushing off negative news this week and focusing on the positives. Meanwhile, strong seasonal factors have given investors reason to be optimistic.
According to the Stock Trader's Almanac, the Dow has risen the day before and after Thanksgiving in seven of the past 10 years.
Don Hays, president of Hays Advisory, said the period from the day before Thanksgiving until the fourth day after New Year's is seasonally the strongest of the year. "This appears to be the result of normal month-end and holiday seasonal strength patterns," he said. "Since this period has more of those than any other time of the year, it quite often produces big moves."
Although some traders expect a bout of profit-taking to kick in soon, after such an impressive run-up, Hugh Johnson, chief investment officer at First Albany, believes the gains will continue. "When you look back at major turning points, it's difficult to find a reason as to why a bear market ends and a bull market begins," he said.
Johnson described Wednesday's data as "dazzling" and said the market has now worked through much of the bull market excesses.
That's not what the performance in
shares are suggesting, of course. Lucent, which had been on the verge of bankruptcy just last month, has climbed 208% since its low on Oct. 11, while Nortel has surged 327% since it hit bottom on Oct. 10.
Still, Johnson said it's easy for a stock to double when it's trading for pennies a share, and he doesn't believe speculation is as rampant as some other market watchers have suggested.
"You have to be careful looking at percentages," he said. "These stocks may be up 100%, but they're starting from a very low price. Going from $1 to $2 doesn't mean a lot."