S&P and Dow set record closes

Friday, July 13, 2007

NEW YORK -- Wall Street soared Thursday, propelling the Standard & Poor's 500 index and Dow Jones industrials to record highs as bright spots among generally sluggish retail sales allowed investors to toss aside concerns about the health of the economy.

The rally, which included the Dow's biggest one-day percentage gain since March 2003, was perhaps surprising given that there was no extraordinary announcement or other catalyst usually seen with such a huge gain, and that it came before most companies have announced their second-quarter earnings.

Cape Girardeau stockbrokers agreed that retail sales figures helped fuel what Rick Ebaugh of Stifel Nicolaus & Company Inc. called Thursday's "big run up."

Retail sales "weren't great, but they were better than expected," Ebaugh said. He was advising clients to "Buy more. ... We're still in a bull market and we have been in a bull market for some time. This just cements my feeling that it's time to pull the trigger."

Michael Domian of Edward Jones offered a more pragmatic view.

"We're never too happy when things go up or too sad when things go down," he said. His advice to clients: "You don't just buy things because money is available."

Domian said he made more calls on bonds than stocks Thursday.

"Clients who have serious money are trying to create a meaningful and steady return," he said. "They need to own both stocks and bonds. Bonds have more of a guaranteed return of principal.

"This is a great opportunity to remind equity holders that we're in the fourth year of an outstanding run in the market," he said. "Pigs get fat. Hogs get slaughtered."

Jackie Majoros of A.G. Edwards & Sons in Cape Girardeau said the record is good for those with money already invested, but may put off people who were thinking of buying stocks.

"For every person that calls in, you look at how old they are, how much risk they're comfortable taking," she said. "There's no common response that's good for everybody. People will be excited by the market. It is doing well."

The rise also marked a sharp contrast to the start of the week, when stocks fell sharply amid concerns that some hedge funds could succumb to ill-placed bets on the housing sector.

But investors, heartened by signs of a happy and spending consumer, clearly decided to put some bets on the table. Though retail sales generally appeared to be crimped last month by higher gasoline prices and a tepid housing market, and the outlook for the coming months was difficult to ascertain, the overall reading wasn't as dour as some investors expected.

Southeast Missourian reporter Peg McNichol contributed to this report.

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