After spinning its wheels for three days in a row, the stock market finally caught a little traction today.
The Nasdaq Stock Market composite index set the pace, climbing almost 33 points to 2,220.46, which was not only a new high for the year but a four-year peak.
The Nasdaq market basked in the glow of Google, the internet search service, whose stock broke through the $400 barrier, closing up 45.30 at $403.45.
The Dow Jones industrial average advanced 46 points to 10,720.22. The Standard & Poor's 500 stock index gained 12 points to 1,242.80.
Reversing the pattern seen previously this week, stocks opened lethargically, then picked up momentum as the day's trading progressed.
Falling oil prices and government reports showing the economy is prospering got much of the credit for today's gains, but some of the market's logic was hard to parse.
For example, homebuilding stocks went up after mortgage rates rose for the tenth week in a row and government reports showed the housing market slowing.
New home construction slowed by almost 6 percent last month and building permits fell by 7 percent--forecasting the slowdown will worsen.
Freddie Mac's weekly mortgage rate survey showed 30-year loans are now averaging 6.37 percent--compared with 5.74 percent a year ago.
Real estate agents said it looks like the housing market hit its peak in August or September and will slow gradually as rates rise. Adjustable rate loans, which were extremely popular a few months ago, now are rapidly losing out to fixed rate mortgages as buyers scramble to lock in lower rates.
Though the slowdown is obvious, new home construction will set records this year and interest rates are still low by historical standards, argued those investing in housing stocks.
Another government report showed industrial output grew by almost 1 percent in October, the strongest gain since May of last year.
That growth plus the negligible inflation shown in yesterday's consumer price index suggested the economy is quite healthy. Add in the lowest crude oil prices since June and Wall Street was in a much better mood.
Even General Motors stock, which hit an 18-year low yesterday, rebounded after GM executives insisted the company is not headed for bankruptcy.
But the domestic auto industry's woes aren't over. Today DaimlerChrysler finally capitulated and joined Ford and GM in offering new incentives. Chrysler's gimmick: two years free gas, $2,400 worth when you buy selected models.