New York: US stocks rose on Thursday amid market optimism the government will act to prevent the year-long recession from deepening, offsetting news that Bank of America was seeking more government aid that had fueled worries about the health of the financial sector.
Wall Street stocks finished well off earlier lows with the Nasdaq outpacing the other key indexes as investors bet technology companies in particular will benefit from a proposed infrastructure plan.
In response to indications that the recession is deepening, Democratic leaders in the US House of Representatives unveiled an $825 billion tax cut and spending bill. After the closing bell, the US Senate rejected an attempt to block the release of the remaining $350 billion from the financial bailout fund.
Shares of Bank of America and Citigroup plummeted on fears the embattled banks may need more government help to deal with soaring credit losses. Bank of America shed more than 18 percent, while Citigroup lost over 15%.
“All the bad news on banks is putting pressure on Washington to get a stimulus package passed soon and that may be lifting optimism some,” said Hugh Johnson, chief investment officer of Johnson Illington Advisors in Albany, New York.
The Dow Jones industrial average added 12.35 points, or 0.15%, to 8,212.49. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index rose 1.12 points, or 0.13%, to 843.74. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 22.20 points, or 1.49%, at 1,511.84.
The afternoon’s advance helped the Dow snap a six-day losing streak. But recent declines have left the broad S&P 500 up nearly 14% from the 11-year lows hit in late November, after starting the year up 20% off those lows.
Futures rose following the Senate vote, which assures the US Treasury will have access to the rest of the bailout funds.
Analysts said hopes that the government is willing to pull out all the stops to shore up the embattled financial sector and the larger economy helped stocks reverse earlier losses during the session.
Results from Intel Corp, the world’s biggest chip maker, that were in line with already lowered analyst estimates following a revenue warning last week also helped futures edge upward.
Intel’s shares rose 2.1% at $13.57 in extended trade.
Investors fretted about the fate of Citigroup a day before the embattled bank is due to announce more losses and lay out a plan about its strategic direction. Citigroup ended down 15.5% at $3.83 while the S&P financial index tumbled 5.1%.
Bank of America gave up 18.4% at $8.32, making it the Dow’s biggest drag. The bank is in talks with the US government to receive about $15 billion in additional capital from the Treasury’s Troubled Asset Relief Program, according to a source.
A steep drop in the price of oil helped consumer-oriented sectors, including retailers and airlines, as investors hoped lower energy costs will take some pressure off cash-strapped consumers. The S&P retail index was up 3.9%, while the airline index rose 4.6%.