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Stocks up modestly in bumpy trading

Madlen Read Associated Press

NEW YORK – Wall Street finished higher in an uneasy session Monday as retail and homebuilders stocks rose on expectations for more interest rate cuts, but banks and insurers fell on worries about further mortgage debt troubles.

The Federal Reserve has been in rate-cutting mode this year and it is expected to lower the federal funds rate once more either this month or at its next regularly scheduled meeting March 18. And the cheaper cost of money is beginning to register in the stock market.

“A number of sectors like retail and housing stocks have done better since the Fed acted, and they are leading the market again today,” said Steve Goldman, chief market strategist at Weeden & Co. “These stocks are called early bellwethers and they tend to lead a recovery.”

The Dow rose 57.88, or 0.48 percent, to 12,240.01. Dow Jones & Co. said it was replacing two of the blue chip index’s 30 components – Altria Group Inc. and Honeywell International Inc. – with Bank of America Corp. and Chevron Corp., effective Feb. 19.

Broader stock indicators ended higher, too. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 7.84, or 0.59 percent, to 1,339.13, and the Nasdaq composite index rose 15.21, or 0.66 percent, to 2,320.06.

Bond prices rose Monday. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which moves opposite its price, fell to 3.61 percent from 3.65 percent late Friday.

The dollar was mixed against other major currencies, while gold prices rose.

The Russell 2000 index rose 0.85, or 0.12 percent, to 699.75.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by about 8 to 7 on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume was 1.39 billion shares.

Light, sweet crude oil rose $1.82 to settle at $93.59 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Last week was the worst week, percentage-wise, for the Dow since March 2003. The blue-chip index fell 4.4 percent, and meanwhile, the S&P’s 500 index declined 4.60 percent and the Nasdaq dropped 4.50 percent. The Dow is about 15 percent below its Oct. 9 record close of 14,164.53, and about 4 percent above the 15-month lows it hit in January.

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