Wall Street starts the week upbeat

May 18, 2009 1:29:18 PM PDT
A surprisingly strong profit report from Lowe's Cos. gave investors a reason to put money back into stocks on Monday. The nation's second-largest home improvement chain posted earnings that easily beat Wall Street's forecasts and the company raised its full-year profit outlook - an encouraging sign for the market that activity in the housing industry could be picking up.

Steep declines in home values have been at the center of the economy's troubles, slicing into consumers' personal wealth and saddling banks with huge losses.

The better-than-expected profit report reignited investors' confidence in the economy following a slump last week. That decline interrupted a powerful rally that still has the Standard & Poor's 500 index up more than 30 percent since early March.

Investors bought up stocks across a number of sectors and pushed the Dow Jones industrial average up 150 points, wiping out about half of the losses it suffered last week.

Financial stocks, which have been a main driver of the market in recent months, turned higher after a handful of upbeat reports from analysts came out. A big jump in oil prices on the improving economic outlook spurred energy companies higher.

In midday trading, the Dow rose 149.50, or 1.8 percent, to 8,418.14. The S&P 500 index rose 15.54, or 1.8 percent, to 898.42, and the Nasdaq composite index rose 25.09, or 1.5 percent, to 1,705.23.

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