Consumer Confidence Boosts Stocks; Dow Industrials Soar to 6-Year High

U.S. stocks rose Tuesday, pushing the Dow Jones index to within 100 points of its record high, as an unexpectedly big jump in consumer confidence eased investor concerns about the effect of slowing economic growth on corporate profits.

The Dow Jones industrial average was up 93.58 points, or 0.81 percent, at 11,669.39, its second-highest close ever. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was up 9.97 points, or 0.75 percent, at 1,336.34. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 12.27 points, or 0.55 percent, at 2,261.34.

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A second day of gains in stocks also helped push the S&P 500 index to a 5-1/2-year high as shares closely tied to consumer spending underpinned the advances in major indexes.

Top gainers included Caterpillar Inc. (CAT), Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) and Boeing (BA) Co.

The Conference Board said its index of U.S. consumer confidence rose more sharply than expected in September, to 104.5 from an upwardly-revised 100.2 in August, as energy costs fell and job prospects improved slightly.

"The jump in consumer confidence came as a relief and helped sustain gains in equities, especially in large-caps," said Jason Schenker, U.S. economist at Wachovia Corp. in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Shares in Caterpillar, the heavy equipment maker, jumped 2.4 percent to $65.90 and Wal-Mart shares rose 0.9 percent to $49.25 on the New York Stock Exchange, while Boeing gained 1.7 percent to $79.00.

Some energy stocks rose as investors said declines in the shares following a 20 percent drop in oil prices in the past two months were excessive.

"We are beginning to see a tentative rebound in oil shares as people think that maybe the stocks have gotten too cheap," said Tim Ghriskey, chief investment officer of Solaris Asset Management in Bedford Hills, New York.

Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) was up 2.1 percent at $66.43 and Chevron Corp. (CVX) gained 2.3 percent to $63.59.

On Nasdaq, Intel Corp. (INTC) rose 2.8 percent to $19.96. The world's biggest microchip company will launch chips with four processing cores in November, Chief Executive Paul Otellini said on Tuesday.

Volume on the New York Stock Exchange was heavy, with about 1.70 billion shares changing hands, above last year's daily average of 1.61 billion. On Nasdaq, about 2 billion shares trade, above last year's daily average of 1.80 billion.

Gainers outnumbered advancers on the NYSE by a ratio of 6 to 5, and on Nasdaq by almost 2 to 1.

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