Monday, April 9, 2007

Back to Work: Dow Goes Seven for Seven

The Dow Jones Industrials got back to work on Monday after a three-day hiatus and quickly moved to the positive at the opening bell. The Dow remained in the plus column almost all day and finished higher by nearly 9 points. Stocks on the NASDAQ hovered around the flatline much of the day, and closed with a small loss.

Dow 12,569.14 +8.94; NASDAQ 2,469.18 -2.16; S&P 500 1,444.61 +0.85; NYSE Composite 9,421.29 +2.64

The session was one of the more lackluster in a series of similarly quiet trading days, but the Dow managed to eke out a minor gain even though advancers were beaten by declining issues by about a 12-10 spread. There were 463 new highs to 84 new lows, so little change there.

The best news for investors was actually released last Friday when the markets were closed. The Labor Department reported the economy created an additional 180,000 jobs last month, well beyond the market expectation of 135,000. Many of the new jobs were in construction, which was a little more of a surprise, since the housing industry had shown significant signs of slowing recently.

The rather tepid response was probably due to some level of disbelief in the Labor Dept. figures - which also showed unemployment declining to 4.4% from 4.6% - and anticipation of 1st quarter reports, most of which aren't due out until later this week and then for the two weeks thereafter.

Another damper on the market continues to be oil, or, to put it more succinctly, the price of a gallon of gas, which has risen for ten straight weeks. Traders actually may have gotten the message, or there was a subtle reduction in tension over Iran (rumors were widely circulated that the US would launch an attack on Iran over the Easter weekend, and that failed to materialize), as the price of crude for May delivery fell $2.77, closing the day at $61.51.

A few more days like today on the oil bourses should send the Dow and other indices skyward once again. Despite some concern over higher food prices, due in part to some food crops - particularly corn - being used to produce fuel instead, the price of oil and gas are still of primary importance.

Gold was slightly lower, but silver gained 7 cents to close at $13.81 per troy ounce.

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