Profits blossomed in the financial industry today and Wall Street celebrated with a 148 point rally in the Dow Jones Industrial Average.
Wall Street cheered the first round of the Spring profits season as three of the nation's biggest financial institutions reported strong earnings.
The nation's two biggest banks, CitiGroup and Bank of America, and the biggest mortgage lender, Fannie Mae, all reported better than expected earnings as their consumer customers took advantage of record low interest rates and borrowed more. Not only was borrowing up, bad loans were down -- the ideal combination for lenders.
Bank of America's earnings grew 11 percent, CitiGroup's profits were up 19 percent from the first quarter of last year and Fannie Mae reported a whopping 61 percent jump in profits.
After the bell, IBM reported an 8 percent increase in operating earnings, which matched the advance in its stock today. IBM and Merck were the Dow's big gainers at 27 of the 30 stocks in the index advanced.
The Dow's gain, which pushed the blue chip index to 8351.10, a 1.8 percent gain, was matched and beaten by other indexes. The Standard & Poors 500 stock index gained 17, a 1.95 percent advance, to 885.23. The Nasdaq Stock Market composite index picked up about the same amount by percentage, closing up 26 points at 1384.95.
General Motors and Microsoft will lead the profit parade tomorrow as corporate earnings recapture market leadership from the war in Iraq, which had preoccupied the market for the last several weeks.
The post-war economy is in a "delicate transition," Anthony M. Santomero, president of the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank, said this morning.
"There is no way to tell how much of our current slow path of recovery is attributable to circumstances surrounding the war and how much should be assigned to weak dynamics," Santomero cautioned.
Santomero said she personally expects economic growth to pick up as the year rolls on, hitting a 3 percent to 4 percent annual rate by year end.
Wall Street is also factoring faster growth into its forecasts for the rest of the year, but for now the market isn't looking that far ahead. What will matter most for the next two or three weeks will be the daily delivery of profit reports. The banks and blue chip companies at the top of the scheduled are expected to deliver good numbers, but the prognosis is more uncertain for high tech companies.