Markets Rise for Fourth Day in a Row

By Renae Merle
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 3, 2009; 4:53 PM

Stocks were up slightly today despite a government report showing that job losses in March topped 600,000 for the fourth straight month. After rallying most of the week, Wall Street reached its fourth weekly gain.

The markets moved between modest gains and losses most of the day, but at the close the Dow Jones industrial average was up 0.5 percent or 39 points to 8,017. This is the first time it has closed above 8,000 since February.

The broader Standard & Poor's 500-stock index gained about 1 percent, or 8 points, to 842.50.

The Dow and S&P were up more than 3 percent for the week and have bounced more than 20 percent from their 12-year lows in March.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index saw the biggest gains, climbing 1.2 percent, or 90 points, to 1,622. It was up nearly 5 percent this week. The Nasdaq was buoyed today by a 21 percent increase in shares of Research In Motion after the maker of the Blackberry reported better than expected earnings late yesterday.

Stocks have been rallying in recent weeks on early indications that the economy's deterioration might be slowing. Yesterday investors cheered international efforts to tackle the financial crisis and a move to give U.S. banks more leeway when valuing their distressed assets, sending stocks to their highest levels in more than a month.

Investors locked in some profits today and stocks moderated, analysts said. "Call it unchanged on exhaustion," said Christopher Low, chief economist at Memphis-based FTN Financial. "I am a big believer in volatility when the economy is in upheaval. For that reason, the market is going to go down at point."

Today, investors shrugged off a Labor Department report showing that employers continue to shed jobs at a quick pace, but in line with many analysts' expectations. The nation's unemployment rate rose to 8.5 percent in March from 8.1 percent, according to Labor Department data. And employers shed 663,000 jobs, meaning that a total of 5.1 million jobs have been lost since the recession began in December 2007.

The decline didn't meet the worst fears of some analysts, but it shows that the labor market remains very weak, Nigel Gault, chief U.S. economist for IHS Global Insight, said in a research note. "We do expect the economy's rate of decline to soften in the second quarter, and for it to hit bottom in the second half of the year. But we don't expect the turnaround to be rapid enough to prevent the unemployment rate hitting 10 percent before it peaks," Gault said.In other economic news, the service sector contracted in March for the sixth consecutive month, according to a report from the Institute for Supply Management, a private trade group. The index of non-manufacturing businesses fell to 40.8 percent in March, from 41.6 percent in February. "Respondents remain concerned about the negative economic outlook and rising unemployment," the report said.

After surging yesterday, crude oil prices slipped slightly to $52.51 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Overseas markets were mixed. London's FTSE fell 2.3 percent, while the Dax in Germany was flat. Japan's Nikkei was also flat.

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