U.S. Stocks Close Slightly Up

By Renae Merle
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 1, 2009; 4:38 PM

Wall Street closed with slight gains today, shrugging off more signs the economy remains weak.

After moving between positive and negative territory today, the blue-chip Dow Jones industrial average gained 0.54 percent or 44 points to close at 8,212 , while the broader Standard & Poor's 500 index also was up 0.54 percent or nearly 5 points to 878. The tech-heavy Nasdaq gained 0.1 percent or 2 points. All of the major indexes were up more than 1 percent for the week, including the Dow, which gained 1.7 percent. This follows one of the best monthly gains in years for stocks in April and a two-month run-up in stocks that have wiped away most of this year's losses. The S&P and Dow are still in negative territory for 2009, but the Nasdaq is in the black.

Shares of General Motors and Ford, which had gained ground yesterday after rival Chrysler filed for bankruptcy, were down today. GM, which reported a 33 percent drop in sales last month, was down nearly 6 percent, while Ford fell nearly 5 percent after reporting a 32 percent sales slump. Chrysler is privately held.

The market was being weighed down by some negative earnings reports. MasterCard's stock fell about 6 percent after the credit card company reported that its first-quarter profits were down 18 percent. Metlife's stock was down nearly 8 percent after the insurer posted a quarterly loss.

In economic news, factory orders fell 0.9 percent in March to $345.3 billion, according to Commerce Department data released today. That was a bigger drop than expected. Orders have been down seven of the past eight months.

But there were glimmers of hope in the ISM manufacturing report for April. The manufacturing index rose to 40.1 from 36.3, a sign that the contraction in the manufacturing sector may be slowing. But the index remains weak by historical standards.

"The ISM report does not yet signal manufacturing growth, but the first step towards growth is for the rate of decline to ease, and this report signals an end to the period of manufacturing free-fall," Nigel Gault, chief U.S. economist for IHS Global Insight, said in a research note.

Crude oil prices were up to $53.20 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Overseas stocks were mixed. London's FTSE was down slightly, Germany's Dax was up 1.4 percent, and Japan's Nikkei gained 1.7 percent.

© 2009 The Washington Post Company