Stocks Extend Rally on Oil Price Drop, Consumer Confidence

Stocks rose Wednesday, extending a week-long rally, after a drop in crude oil prices and a report showing better-than-expected consumer sentiment set the stage for robust holiday spending.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 44.66 points, or 0.41 percent, to end at 10,916.09. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index gained 4.38 points, or 0.35 percent, to 1,265.61. The technology-laced Nasdaq Composite Index added 6.42 points, or 0.28 percent, to 2,259.98.

Investors bought shares of major retailers like Federated Department Stores Inc. (FD), a day after the National Retail Federation released a higher forecast for this year's U.S. holiday sales.

U.S. crude oil for January delivery fell 13 cents to settle at $58.71 a barrel, following a weekly government report that U.S. crude supplies increased in the latest week.

A University of Michigan report said its November gauge of consumer sentiment rose more than expected, as gasoline prices fell, increasing consumers' discretionary budgets.

"Just two or three weeks ago, it seemed like it was going to be a bad holiday season," said Eric Kuby, chief investment officer at Northstar Investment Management Co. in Chicago.

"People thought nobody would spend money because they'd have to fill up their gas tanks and heat their houses and that would choke off consumer spending, and now that fear has abated with energy prices coming down," he added.

Both the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq closed at fresh 4-1/2-year highs, while the Dow finished yet again at its highest level since March. The three major U.S. stock indexes have finished higher each day since last Thursday.

The stock of Federated, owner of Macy's and Bloomingdale's, jumped 3.2 percent, or $2.14, to $68.11 on the New York Stock Exchange. Electronics retailer Best Buy Co. Inc. (BBY) gained 1.7 percent, or 84 cents, to $49 on the NYSE.

Financial services stocks were among the best performers in the Dow and the Standard & Poor's 500. The Philadelphia KBW index of bank stocks hit a lifetime high a day after minutes of the Federal Reserve's Nov. 1 meeting signaled it may be nearing the end of its rate-hike cycle.

J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. (JPM) shares advanced 1.5 percent, or 58 cents, to $38.78 on the NYSE. Bank of America Corp. (BAC) shares gained 1.3 percent, or 61 cents, to $46.71. Citigroup Inc. shares rose almost 1 percent, or 42 cents, to $49.34.

"Ever since the Fed minutes came in, the financials have been particularly strong," Kuby said. "People feel there's reason to believe rate hikes may be coming to an end."

The biggest positive push on the Dow was International Business Machines Corp. (IBM), up nearly 1 percent, or 81 cents, at $88.80 after research firm IDC said the market for server computers used by businesses grew 8.1 percent in the third quarter.

Intel Corp. (INTC) gave the Nasdaq its biggest boost. Shares of the world's dominant chipmaker rose 1.8 percent, or 48 cents, to $26.64.

The Philadelphia Stock Exchange semiconductor index hit a fresh 52-week high at 486.64, although it ended lower. For the day, the semiconductor index fell 0.5 percent to 480.48.

"Semiconductors have been laggards in this rally," said Herb Kurlan, president of Vtraders LLC. "If interest rates are not going to be increased by the statements from the Fed yesterday, then the semiconductors stocks will benefit from economic growth without substantially higher interest rates."

In NYSE trading, shares of Eastman Kodak Co. (EK) jumped 8.4 percent, or $1.87, to $24.02. Kodak was among the Big Board's biggest percentage gainers, a day after the world's top maker of photographic film said it reached a settlement with the Internal Revenue Service that will boost fourth-quarter earnings.

The U.S. stock market will be closed Thursday for the Thanksgiving Day holiday and will shut early at 1 p.m. Friday.