NEW YORK – Investors have taken another big gamble on the government’s plans to help the economy – hoping that this one will finally work.
All the major indexes rose more than 2 percent Friday, including the Dow Jones industrial average, which rose more than 200 points as Wall Street looked past another bleak jobs report and awaited word from Washington about an economic stimulus plan and changes to the government’s financial rescue program.
The advance helped propel the indexes to their first winning week after four straight weeks of losses, and put the Nasdaq composite in positive territory for the year to date.
The Dow closed the week up 279.73, or 3.5 percent, at 8,280.59. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 42.72, or 5.17 percent, to 868.60. The Nasdaq composite index rose 115.29, or 7.81 percent, closing at 1,591.71.
The Russell 2000 index, which tracks the performance of small company stocks, rose 27.17, or 6.13 percent, to 470.7.
The Dow Jones Wilshire 5000 Composite Index – a free-float weighted index that measures 5,000 U.S.-based companies – ended at 8,785.09, up 449.45 points, or 5.39 percent, for the week. A year ago, the index was at 13,418.18.
Financial stocks led the market as investors also awaited the government’s latest revisions to its lifeline for banks. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and other top officials are close to finishing a plan to overhaul the government’s $700 billion financial rescue fund. Geithner is expected to announce the changes in a speech on Monday.
Some investors were worried that the changes would involve nationalizing many banks and, in the process, wiping out shareholders. Many investors are hoping the plan will relax rules requiring businesses to assign a value to all of their assets each quarter. Advocates say altering the rule even temporarily could make it easier for banks to lend without worrying about depleting their cash reserves and running afoul of accounting standards.
Investors waiting for word on the government’s plans were unfazed by a terrible employment reading. The Labor Department said U.S. employers slashed 598,000 jobs in January, the most since late 1974. The unemployment rate rose to 7.6 percent, the highest since late 1992.
Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by about 5 to 1 on the New York Stock Exchange, where consolidated volume came to 6.38 billion shares compared with 6.51 billion shares traded Thursday.
Bond prices were mixed Friday. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which moves opposite its price, rose to 2.99 percent from 2.92 percent late Thursday. The yield on the three-month T-bill, considered one of the safest investments, rose to 0.27 percent from 0.26 percent.
The dollar was mostly higher against other major currencies. Gold prices edged higher.
Light, sweet crude fell $1 to $40.17 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
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