Stocks rebounded today after the crude oil market stabilized and well-known retail chains reported business isn't so bad after all.
The Dow Jones industrial average gained 129 points t0 9,954.55.
The Nasdaq Stock Market composite index was up almost 26 to 1,782.84.
The Standard & Poor's 500 stock index advanced 14.5 points to 1,079.34.
Retail stocks led the market higher based on optimistic outlooks from Kmart, Wal-Mart and Lowe's. The market was so upbeat that even insurance stocks rose as the big casualty underwriters said they will be able to handle claims from Hurricane Charley without too much pain.
Thanks to the strong housing market, August sales are coming in better than expected and sales of big-ticket items such as whirlpool baths and kitchen cabinets were up 40 percent at Lowe's, which is number two to Home Depot in the home improvement business. Wal-Mart also issued a mid-month update saying sales are strong.
Lowe's reported an 18 percent improvement in second quarter profits and said purchases of more than$1,000 were up 40 percent for the quarter.
Shares of Lowe's rose after the report, but the day's hot retail stock was Kmart, which jumped 17 percent after the retailer reported its third quarterly profit since it came out of bankruptcy.
The retail results relieved concerns about consumer spending that were raised by recent government reports showing weak retail sales in June and July. That relief was reinforced by today's 50-cent-a-barrel decline in crude oil prices, which have been blamed for draining dollars that consumers might be spending at Wal-Mart, Kmart or Lowe's.
Crude oil futures moved higher in early trading, but dropped back during the day and closed at $46.08 per barrel. The pressure on prices was relieved by reports from Venezuela that a presidential recall vote failed to oust President Hugo Chavez, who won a 58 percent to 42 percent majority. Traders had feared that the recall of Chavez or a close vote might disrupt oil exports from Venezuela, an important U.S. supplier.
While crude oil futures retreated in the calm after the storm, orange juice futures had their biggest single-day spurt in three years because of the damage inflicted by the hurricane. Orange juice for September delivery jumped 10 cents a pound -- which translates into around 40 cents for a half-gallon carton. The three counties hardest hit by Charley produce about one-third of Florida's crop.