Originally created 05/29/03

Stocks rise modestly despite weak durable-goods orders



NEW YORK -- Brushing aside a report of sluggish factory orders, Wall Street extended its rally Wednesday as it focused instead on hopes for an economic rebound. Upbeat earnings from companies such as Krispy Kreme and Costco fed the market's optimism.

"The market is really looking forward and the consensus is that we're going to see a strong economic recovery in the second half," said Keith Keenan, vice president of institutional trading at Wall Street Access, a New York-based brokerage firm.

But he added, "some of that is fueled by performance anxiety. A lot of money managers are not fully invested, and a lot of hedge funds are short, so you're seeing a lot of unwinding."

The Dow Jones industrial average closed up 11.77, or 0.1 percent, at 8,793.12, having gained 179.97 points in the previous session to its best closing level since Jan. 14.

The broader market also finished higher. The Nasdaq composite index rose 6.55, or 0.4 percent, to 1,563.24, after advancing 46.60 points to its highest close since June 5, 2002.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 1.74, or 0.2 percent, to 953.22, having gained 18.26 points on Tuesday to its best level since Aug. 22, 2002.

The Commerce Department reported Wednesday that orders to U.S. factories for big ticket goods fell by 2.4 percent in April from the month before, when they rose 1.4 percent. The decline, the largest since September, was deeper than the 1 percent drop analysts expected.

Stocks have surged in recent weeks on better-than-expected earnings and investor bets of an economic rebound by year's end. Still, analysts caution that Wall Street may see some sharp declines on profit-taking unless investors continue to see sustained evidence of a recovery.

Indeed, Wall Street was headed toward a third straight month of gains, with the Dow up 3.7 percent so far in May, the Nasdaq higher 6.8 percent and the S&P up 4 percent.

"I don't know if this is necessarily sustainable, but then again, we've had a thousand instances of hope that the second half of the year is going to be better," said Charles White, vice chairman and portfolio strategist at Avatar Associates.

"I think we're going to continue to get some not great news and guidance on the economy," he added. "Given the durable orders data, we don't know that the manufacturing data won't stop being a drag."

A string of upbeat earnings news gave the market some of its lift.

Krispy Kreme climbed $2.32 to $34.18 after the doughnut chain posted quarterly profits that came in a penny higher than analysts' expectations.

Toll Brothers rose $1.05 to $28.50 after the luxury homebuilder reported fiscal second-quarter operating earnings that beat Wall Street's estimates by 4 cents per share.

Retailers also advanced. Target added $1.25 to $35.25 after the discounter said same-store sales were better than expected last week, while Costco Wholesale increased $1.43 to $37.35 after posting quarterly earnings that beat estimates by 2 cents per share.

Decliners included AutoZone, which fell $3.67 to $83.74, after the auto parts retailer said fiscal third-quarter earnings grew 23 percent, citing strong sales; the results were in line with the company's previous estimates.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners 4 to 3 on the New York Stock Exchange. Volume was heavy.

The Russell 2000 index, a barometer of smaller company stocks, rose 2.77, or 0.7 percent, to 430.48.

Overseas, Japan's Nikkei stock average finished 1.4 percent higher Wednesday. In Europe, France's CAC-40 and Britain's FTSE 100 both gained 2 percent while Germany's DAX index advanced 1.6 percent.

On the Net:

New York Stock Exchange: http://www.nyse.com

Nasdaq Stock Market: http://www.nasdaq.com