Saturday 23 February 2008

U.S. Stocks Rally in Final 30 Minutes

U.S. stocks rallied in the final 30 minutes of trading, helping the market post its second straight weekly gain, as speculation bond insurer Ambac Financial Group Inc. may be rescued overcame concern bank earnings will falter.

American International Group Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. led the Dow Jones Industrial Average's 243-point turnaround. Ambac, which guarantees more than $500 billion in debt, climbed the most in three weeks after CNBC reported that the bailout to salvage its AAA credit rating may be announced next week.

``This will cheer us up, if it in fact turns out to be true,'' said Bill Stone, who helps oversee $77 billion as chief investment strategist at PNC Wealth Management in Philadelphia. ``People are buying into the story.''

The Standard & Poor's 500 Index climbed 10.58 points, or 0.8 percent, to 1,353.11, ending the week up 0.2 percent. The Dow average added 96.72, or 0.8 percent, to 12,381.02. The Nasdaq Composite Index increased 3.57, or 0.2 percent, to 2,303.35. About two stocks gained for every one that fell on the New York Stock Exchange.

Stocks dropped earlier, led by financial shares, on concern that profits at brokerage firms will decline and lower demand for mortgages will curb growth at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Saving Ambac's AAA credit rating for the municipal and asset- backed securities guaranty units would help banks and debt investors limit losses.

Nine of 10 industry groups in the S&P 500 ended the day higher, as the rally in the final half hour reversed declines that earlier had sent every group except for one lower.