Merger deals help bring wary relief to market
Stocks back where they were before credit downgrade
NEW YORK - Stocks swept higher yesterday on Wall Street, returning the overall market to where it was before the US credit rating was downgraded.
A spate of mergers and acquisitions helped build a rally of more than 2 percent in the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index, leading some analysts to weigh whether the surge signaled a possible period of stability after last week’s steep losses and volatility.
Standard & Poor’s downgraded the nation’s credit rating Aug. 5 after the market had closed at 1,199.38. Stocks sold off the next week, with the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones industrial average finishing the five-day period nearly 2 percent lower. Yesterday, however, the broader market as measured by the S&P 500 inched above the predowngrade level to close at 1,204.49, after gaining 25.68 points, or 2.2 percent.
The Dow was up 213.88 points, or 1.9 percent, at 11,482.90, also exceeding its predowngrade close of 11,444.61. The same was the case with the Nasdaq composite index, up 47.22 points, or 1.9 percent, at 2,555.20.
With gains of around 3 percent in utility, energy, and bank stocks yesterday, analysts were cautiously weighing whether the worst of the recent upheaval was over.
“For now it is clear that in essence there is a relief in the market,’’ said Quincy Krosby, a market strategist for Prudential Financial. “You can feel it.’’
Still, given the unease that had set in even before the downgrade, stocks are still in a slump. The S&P 500 is more than 10 percent below where it was as recently as July 22.
And even as shares climbed yesterday, Krosby and other analysts said there was plenty of new economic information in the week ahead that could upend the gains of the past three sessions, including jobless claims and the Consumer Price Index. In addition, yesterday’s volumes were low.
“When the buying picks up, we like to see more buying,’’ she said. “It is an indication of more conviction.’’
New deals helped propel yesterday’s market. A multibillion-dollar Google deal, a rise in commodity prices, and the perception that European leaders and the central bank would take measures including bond purchases to support heavily indebted member countries could be helping, analysts said, though such sovereign debt and economic problems are expected to remain a factor in the markets.
Financial stocks rose, including Bank of America, which increased 7.9 percent to $7.76. It took steps yesterday to leave the international credit card business, agreeing to sell its $8.6 billion Canadian card venture to the TD Bank Group for an undisclosed amount, and putting its remaining European card portfolio on the block.
Citigroup was up 4.8 percent to $31.27.
Worries about the US economy and the threat of a financial crisis in Europe had overwhelmed traders, but the downgrade proved to be a tipping point, sending stocks reeling in what turned out to be one of the most tumultuous weeks on Wall Street.
Analysts said that investors were taking a second look at some of the causes of the volatility from last week.
Investors’ attention was focused on a meeting today of Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and President Nicolas Sarkozy of France.
The two leaders will address the threat to the eurozone posed by low growth and teetering public finances in some euro member nations, their room to maneuver circumscribed by fears that France could be next for market attacks.
“People are taking a more rational view of the path ahead, that some of the problems in Europe can be addressed with additional spending restraint from some of the governments,’’ which will take time, said Russell Price, senior economist with Ameriprise Financial.
The euro rose against the dollar, a development that Krosby of Prudential attributed to expectations for the Merkel-Sarkozy meeting.
The price of the benchmark 10-year Treasury note fell 14/32 to 98 12/32, and the yield rose to 2.31 percent, from 2.26 percent late Friday.
“Today was a day that people took a little bit of a rest to try to digest all the news that has happened and the volatility that has happened in the market recently,’’ said George Rusnak, national director of fixed income for Wells Fargo.
Broader commodity prices were up, and investors were probably doing some bargain hunting after last week’s declines, said Keith B. Hembre, the chief economist and chief investment strategist at Nuveen Asset Management.
“It is part of the market trying to find its feet,’’ he said. “Despite the bounce on Friday, this market has been really beaten up.’’
European stocks showed modest gains.
The FTSE 100 index in London was up 0.6 percent. The CAC 40 in France rose 0.8 percent and the DAX in Germany was up 0.4 percent.
Asian shares rose, with the Tokyo benchmark Nikkei 225 stock average gaining 1.4 percent.