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September 4, 2007 > Stocks rise after Bernanke, Bush speeches on credit markets

Stocks rise after Bernanke, Bush speeches on credit markets

By Tim Paradis, AP Business Writer

NEW YORK (AP), Aug 31 _ Stocks ran up big gains Friday as investors took comments from President Bush and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke as reassuring signs that Wall Street wouldn't be left to deal with problems in the mortgage and credit markets on its own. The Dow Jones industrials rose more than 160 points.

Investors initially balked early in Friday's session when comments from Bernanke didn't indicate a cut in the benchmark federal funds rate was imminent. However, they seemed to move past some of their initial disappointment and concentrate on comments that the Fed would step in if needed.

Bernanke, speaking at the Fed's annual conference in Jackson Hole, Wyo., said the central bank will ``act as needed'' to prevent the credit crisis from hurting the national economy.

The major indexes fluctuated but by midday extended their gains after President Bush spoke about details of a plan to help borrowers facing trouble paying their mortgages.

``You've got all the speeches working for the market here,'' said Michael Church, portfolio manager at Church Capital Management in Philadelphia. ``What we've seen in the last few weeks is that Ben Bernanke and the Federal Reserve are paying attention to what's going on. They will help correct the credit markets. For now, we're in a trading range and we have to sort through this mess.''

The Dow rose 164.28, or 1.24 percent, to 13,403.01.

Broader stock indicators also rose. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 19.83, or 1.36 percent, to 1,477.47, and the Nasdaq composite index rose 29.55, or 1.15 percent, to 2,594.85.

Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note, which moves inversely to its price, rose to 4.54 percent from 4.51 percent late Thursday. The U.S. bond market will be closing early at 2 p.m. EDT ahead of the holiday weekend.

Since the stock market started tumbling in late July on fears that problems in mortgage and corporate lending would lead to a credit freeze and hurt the economy, the Fed has injected tens of billions of dollars into the banking system and lowered its discount rate _ the charge on its loans to commercial banks. But the Fed hasn't yet said it will lower the benchmark federal funds rate, and Wall Street's uncertainty over what the central bank will do next has kept the markets volatile. The Fed's next meeting is Sept. 18 and some investors had expected the central bank might hint at or even go through with a rate cut before then.

Economic news, as Bernanke indicated Friday, appeared less relevant than normal as investors remained focused on upheaval in the credit market and mortgage concerns.

The Commerce Department reported on personal income and spending and the core personal consumption expenditures deflator, one of the Fed's preferred gauges of inflation. Personal incomes and spending edged up by 0.5 percent and 0.3 percent, respectively, and year-over-year core PCE stayed at 1.9 percent _ within the Fed's comfort range.

The Commerce Department also said orders to factories jumped by 3.7 percent in July, topping a 3.3 percent increase that had been expected. The rise, which came after three months of modest gains, followed an 11 percent jump in demand for transportation goods, including the biggest increase in orders for cars in more than four years.

Also, the Chicago purchasing managers index rose to 53.8 in August from 53.4 in July; the index, which measures manufacturing in the Midwest, is seen as a precursor to the Institute for Supply Management index, to be released on Tuesday.

Church said the market was helped by Friday's economic figures as well as a stronger-than-expected reading on second-quarter gross domestic product released Thursday.

``The consumer has been in the crosshairs of the bears for a while now,'' he said, referring to concerns that a pullback in consumer spending will upend economic growth. ``I think this helps clarify a lot of the situation. The news from the consumer is good.''

Mortgage lenders also got a boost from Bush's comments. He said America's economy can ``weather any turbulence'' in what he termed a period of transition for the financial markets. He outlined proposals to assist borrowers in trouble from a pullback in the housing market and credit problems.

Countrywide rose 18 cents to $19.82, while Impac Mortgage Holdings Inc. rose 4 cents, or 2.4 percent, to $1.69.

The dollar was mixed against other major currencies, while gold prices rose.

Light, sweet crude rose 83 cents to $74.19 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by about 5 to 1 on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume came to a light 652.6 million shares. Trading in late August often is light as investors take end-of-summer vacations.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies rose 7.94, or 1.01 percent, to 791.05.

In market action abroad, Japan's Nikkei stock average surged 2.57 percent, Hong Kong's key index jumped 2.13 percent, and China's Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.99 percent. In Europe, Britain's FTSE 100 rose 1.47 percent, Germany's DAX index rose 1.57 percent, and France's CAC-40 rose 1.25 percent.

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On the Net:

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

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

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