Wall Street came back from the Fourth of July holiday with enough left-over firecrackers to keep the stock market popping today.
Ignoring a storm-driven jump in oil prices, traders decided that strengthening sales at Wal-Mart and the spread of General Motors' "employee discounts" to Ford and DaimlerChrysler are encouraging economic signals.
Stock buyers also credited the big 2.9 percent jump in May factory orders reported today by the Commerce Department--even though that data simply reflected a batch of new orders for Boeing jetliners--which were already reported in the government tally of big ticket sales which was released last week.
The Dow Jones industrial average climbed 68 points to 10,371.80. The Nasdaq Stock Market composite average gained 21 to 2,078.75. The Standard & Poor's 500 stock index added almost 11 points, closing at 1,204.99.
The price of crude oil jumped 85 cents a barrel as the hurricane season got off to a fast start. One storm, named Cindy, neared landfall, forcing the shutdown today of the Louisiana offshore oil depot, the nation's largest petroleum import terminal. A second storm, Dennis, is a week away from the coast, but is headed for the primary oil producing section of the Gulf of Mexico. Oil companies began pulling workers off platforms in the Gulf today in anticipation of Dennis, which is forecast to cause more disruption than Cindy.
Oil experts warned that with U.S. supplies tight, tropical storms are likely to be regular visitors to the crude oil markets this summer, producing price spikes that could last longer than the actual storms.
Wal-Mart flashed the news that June sales were stronger than forecast, giving a jump to Wal-Mart stock. Other retailers will put out their sales reports later in the week.
Wal-Mart's sales and the consumer response to GM's "you pay what we pay" promotion are being interpreted as evidence that--with proper motivation--consumers are ready and willing to spend.
GM's sales spiked 47 percent in June, giving GM its best sales month in 18 years.
The promotion was scheduled to end today, but GM extended it for another month after DaimlerChrysler and Ford announced similar deep-discount deals today.