NEW YORK – You can almost hear Wall Street exhaling.
The Dow Jones industrial average soared more than 300 points Thursday after Republican leaders and President Barack Obama finally seemed willing to end a 10-day budget standoff that has threatened to leave the U.S. unable to pay its bills.
The news drove the Dow to its biggest point rise this year and ended a three-week funk in stocks. It also injected some calm into the frazzled market for short-term government debt.
Republican leaders said Thursday they would vote to extend the government’s borrowing authority for six weeks. A spokesman for Obama said the president would “likely” sign a bill to increase the nation’s ability to borrow money so it can continue paying its bills.
“Congressmen and -women are coming to terms with how calamitous it would be if the debt ceiling was not raised,” said Joseph Tanious, Global Market Strategist for J.P. Morgan Asset Management. “Cooler heads are prevailing.”
The Dow jumped 323.09 points, or 2.2 percent, to close at 15,126.07, its high for the day.
The final surge came even as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Democrats would not negotiate with Republicans as long as the government remains partly shut. Reid’s comments were reported about 15 minutes before the market closed at 4 p.m. Eastern time.
Stocks have steadily declined since mid-September as Washington’s gridlock got investors worried that the U.S. could default on its debt and wreak havoc on global financial markets. While traders applauded a potential deal between the White House and Congress, more volatility could be ahead if it falls through.
“We don’t need some grand bargain. We just need to avoid a default,” said Brian Reynolds of chief market strategist at Rosenblatt Securities. “Just don’t bring us to the edge again.”
The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 36.16 points, or 2.2 percent, to 1,692.56 and the Nasdaq composite rose 82.97 points, or 2.3 percent, to 3,760.75.
Thursday’s gains were extraordinarily broad. Of the 500 stocks in the S&P 500 index, only 11 fell. Banks and industrial stocks rose the most.