Stocks Soar on Positive Earnings News

Stocks rallied strongly Thursday as a string of decent corporate earnings reports helped broad indexes erase the losses that followed the deadly Sept. 11 attacks.

The technology-packed Nasdaq Composite Index gained 69.59 points, or 4.28 percent, to 1,695.85, and is now down less than 1 percent since its Sept. 10 close, the day before the attacks. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 rose 15.49 points, or 1.43 percent, to 1,096.48. It surpassed the Sept. 10 close of 1,092.54 shortly after Thursday's open.

The Dow Jones industrial average jumped 164.89 points, or 1.78 percent, to 9,405.75, extending Wednesday's 188-point advance. The Dow is still down more than 2 percent from its pre-attack level.

The air attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center and damaged the Pentagon also knocked the wind out of the stock market, sending major indexes more than 11 percent lower in the week after the assaults — but the market has gradually gained back nearly all of those losses. 

"People are finally acknowledging that this year is a total wipeout," said Ned Riley, chief investment officer at State Street Global Advisors. "But I really believe people are starting to become convinced that 2002 is not going to be as dire and as negative as a lot of economists portray."

The Dow's gains were partly due to diversified manufacturer Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing Co., which rose $3.94 to $105.78.

Semiconductor stocks rallied strongly. The Philadelphia Stock Exchange's semiconductor index rose more than 8 percent, lifted by KLA Tencor, up $4.14 at $37.80. Industry giant Intel Corp. rose $1.32 to $24.38.

Computer data storage companies like EMC Corp. also saw solid gains. EMC, the most heavily traded on the New York Stock Exchange, rose 93 cents to $13.19.

Cisco rose $1.31 to $16.46, above the price it was trading before the Sept. 11 attacks.

Better-than-expected earnings news from Genentech and ETrade cheered investors who have been bracing themselves for dismal results as U.S. companies issue their third-quarter reports this month. 

Investors bid biotech company Genentech up $3.50 to $44.30 after the company exceeded third-quarter expectations. E-broker ETrade also turned in a better performance than Wall Street had anticipated, sending its stock up $1.19 to $7.85. 

General Electric gained $1.03 to $38.94 on third-quarter results that met expectations. And Yahoo gained $1.57 to $12.50 after meeting analysts' third-quarter projections but slightly reducing its forecast for the current quarter. 

"The fact that a company like GE was able to meet toned-down expectations is again the lack of a negative being a positive for the market,'' said Charles G. Crane, strategist at Victory SBSF Capital Management. ``The sense I have is that we could retest the September lows before the end of the year or we could do it within next four or five trading sessions. We really don't know.''

Pharmaceutical stocks, in turn, fell as investors cashed in gains from a sector that has done well recently when Wall Street searched for less risky investments. Johnson & Johnson dropped $1.10 to $54.94. 

Investors appeared unfazed by data showing unemployment remains a problem for the economy. 

The Labor Department reported that for the week ending Oct. 6, new jobless claims fell by a seasonally adjusted 67,000 to 468,000, a level suggesting a very weak job market. The more stable four-week moving average rose last week to 463,000, the highest level since Dec. 14, 1991, when the country was in its last recession. 

The worst September retail sales in two decades also failed to stop the broader market's advance, chiefly because the disappointing results weren't surprising given consumers' anxieties after the Sept. 11 attacks. Gap rose 15 cents to $13.73, despite reporting a 17 percent drop in sales at stores open at least a year.

Advancing issues led decliners more than 3 to 2 on the New York Stock Exchange. Volume came to 1.34 billion shares, compared with 994.42 million at the same point Wednesday.

The Russell 2000 index rose 9.38 to 431.04. 

Overseas, Japan's Nikkei stock average rose 3.8 percent. In Europe, Germany's DAX index gained 2.3 percent, Britain's FT-SE 100 advanced 0.2 percent, and France's CAC-40 climbed 0.3 percent.

Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report.