Stock prices climbed again today as the latest economic data reinforced reassurances from Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan that "the economic fundamentals remain firm."
Greenspan said the Gulf Coast hurricanes disrupted the economy and drove up oil prices, but did not do as much damage as many economists and investors feared.
The Fed chairman testified at a congressional hearing, one of his final official appearances before he retires next year. Since White House economic adviser Ben S. Bernanke was named to succeed Greenspan, the Fed's strategy of cranking up rates has been grudgingly accepted by Wall Street. Higher rates generally are not good for stocks, but traders now are confident that the Fed's action won't hurt economic growth.
Despite the storms, the productivity of American workers improved at an annual rate of 4.1 percent in the fourth quarter of the year, the Labor Department reported.
And the Institute for Supply Management said its index of the health of the services sector of the economy showed its biggest gain in more than three years last month.
Also encouraging for the market were the October sales reports from the nationwide retail chains. Except for The Gap, most retailers had a strong month--which was interpreted as further evidence the economy has weathered the storms in pretty good shape.
Climbing for the second day in a row, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 50 points to 10,522.59. The Standard & Poor's 500 stock index closed up 5 points at 1,219.94. The Nasdaq Stock Market composite index climbed 16 points to 2,160.22.