Stocks surged today, with the Dow Jones industrials posting a triple-digit gain as investors expressed relief after Senator John Kerry conceded the election to President Bush. A drop in oil prices also helped boost shares.
Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at Standard & Poor's, characterized the advance as "a Republican-inspired relief rally" for the stock market.
Anxiety about the outcome of the election hobbled the market for weeks, keeping stocks in a tight trading range. There had been concerns equities would sink in the absence of a clear winner after the polls closed, but the market rallied in anticipation of a Bush victory even as votes were still being counted in three states. It became official when sources from both parties confirmed late today that Kerry had conceded the election.
At 1 p.m., the Dow Jones industrial average was up 128.46, or 1.28 percent, at 10,164.19.
The broader gauges were also higher. The Standard & Poor's 500 index added 14.68, or 1.30 percent, to 1,145.22. The Nasdaq composite index rose 22.18, or 1.12 percent, to 2,006.97.
In the first piece of post-election economic news, the Commerce Department reported that orders to U.S. factories declined for a second straight month, slipping by 0.4 percent, or $1.3 billion in September to $368.4 billion. Demand dropped sharply for all manufactured goods except defense materials. It was the first back-to-back monthly decline since November-December, and fell far short of the 0.5 percent increase projected by economists.
Lofty energy prices have also weighed heavily on stocks in recent weeks, although crude has stepped back from record highs over the past several sessions, and continued its decline following the government's weekly report on fuel inventories. Traders were surprised by a 6.3 million barrel run-up in crude supplies, which seemed to overshadow a 900,000 barrel drawdown in heating oil; the market had expected a slim build.
It was the seventh week in a row that heating oil supplies were down, a trend that has raised alarm among economists who worry that high fuel prices during what's projected to be a colder-than-average winter will cut into consumer spending. Still, oil prices were down on the supply data, with light, sweet crude for December delivery shedding 12 cents to $49.50.
Earnings reports were another boost for stocks.
Cigna Corp. added $1.45, or 2.3 percent, to $64.90, after reporting a 64 percent surge in third-quarter income on growth in the health insurer's indemnity business and sales gains in retirement benefits. The company also raised its earnings estimates for the full year.
Time Warner, added 18 cents to $16.46 despite an 8 percent slide in third quarter earnings, due in part to a $500 million reserve the company set up to contend with pending government investigations. The company also said it would restate its accounting for its stake in AOL Europe prior to 2002.
Halliburton Co., the world's largest oilfield-services company, rose $2.05 to $37.59. The company, which U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney headed from 1995 to 2000, is the center of a Federal Bureau of Investigation probe into whether the company was given preferential treatment to win contracts in Iraq.
Defense contractors rose on optimism a Republican-led government will sustain spending in military equipment. Lockheed Martin Corp., the largest U.S. defense company, gained $1.61 to $55.72. Raytheon Co., the world's largest missile maker, added $1.19 to $37.95.
Advancers outnumbered declining issues by more than 3 to 1 on the New York Stock Exchange. Volume came to 813.48 million shares, compared to 674.52 million shares traded at the same point Tuesday.
The Russell 2000 index, which tracks smaller company stocks, was up 9.62, or 1.64 percent, at 595.06.
Overseas, Japan's Nikkei stock average surged 1.43 percent. In Europe, France's CAC-40 added 0.11 percent, Britain's FTSE 100 rose 0.54 percent and Germany's DAX index was up 0.04 percent.