General Motors stock jumped 8.5 percent today, based solely on a report that GM and its unions plan to sit down and start talking about controlling health care costs.
The $2.70 leap in GM stock, to $34.51 a share added 20 points to the Dow Jones industrial average, pushing the blue chip index into the black while other measures of the market fell for the day.
The Dow closed 10 points higher at 10,512.63, ending the week up 51 points.
The Nasdaq Stock Market composite index fell 14 points to exactly 2,063, up 8 points for the week. The Standard & Poor's 500 stock index fell 3 points to 1,198.11 and was up 2 points for the week.
GM stock actually made most of the difference for the Dow this week, climbing more than $3.50, despite the announcement that the company plans to cut thousands more jobs and reduce its car-making capacity by as much as a million units a year.
Only the most optimistic speculator could envision those developments as a sign that the fortunes of the struggling automaker are turning around. GM has a long history of announcing cost-cutting measures and layoffs; none of the previous efforts has stopped the slide in the company's share of the U.S. market.
The market's reaction to the meeting on health care costs stunned UAW president Ron Gettelfinger. On the phone with Washington Post reporter Jonathan Weisman, Gettelfinger went silent for a moment when told what had happened. Finally he said, "we're ignoring the stock market and working within the confines of the contract."
That contract doesn't provide for any changes in GM's generous health care benefits before it expires two years from now.
Wall Street's minimal moves this week reflect investors' wariness about the market which were evident earlier in the week when traders were trying to outguess Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan.
Early in the week Greenspan got the blame for mid-day selloffs that swept through the Street. Traders were worried about what Greenspan would say when he appeared before Congress on Thursday, market analysts insisted. When the Fed chairman actually did speak, stocks climbed--but not by much.
When better-than-expected pronouncements from Greenspan can't lift the market--but speculation about the health of General Motors can, you know Wall Street is having trouble finding direction.