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Market Snapshot

Dow Closes Above 10,000

It took a year, but the Dow Jones industrial average finally closed back above the 10,000 level on Thursday. The blue-chip benchmakrk, which last finished above five figures on Oct. 8, 2008, rallied along with the broader market on better-than-expected third-quarter results from banking giant JPMorgan Chase (JPM) and chipmaker Intel (INTC), and some encouraging economic data.

On Wednesday, the 30-stock Dow Jones industrial average finished higher by 144.80 points, or 1.47%, at 10,015.86. The first time the Dow Jones industrial average traded above 10,000 was Mar. 12, 1999, and its first close above 10,000 was on Mar. 29. 1999.

Of course, the Dow remains well below its all-time closing high of 14,164.53 reached Oct. 9, 2007.

The broad Standard & Poor's 500-stock index was up 18.83 points, or 1.75%, at 1,092.02.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index gained 32.34 points, or 1.51%, to 2,172.23.

Financial, technology, and retail issues led the rally.

Gold futures retreated on profit taking despite a drop in the dollar index.

Treasury prices sank as yields moved higher.

Crude oil futures topped $75 per barrel.

Minutes to the September meeting of the Federal Reserve's policy-setting arm, the Federal Open Market Committee, showed Fed policy makers believed an economic recovery was underway.

Also supportive for stocks: reports showing better-than-expected U.S. retail sales and a smaller-than-expected rise in U.S. import prices last month.

Among the best-performing industry groups in Tuesday's session, the S&P Railroads index gained 5.38% after CSX Corp. (CSX) posted better than expected third-quarter earnings from continuing operations of $0.74 per share.

The Investment Banking & Brokerage index gained 3.70% on the heels of JPMorgan's stronger-than-expected results, led by component Goldman Sachs (GS), which reports results Thursday. The Other Diversified Financial Services index rose 3.78%.

The Casinos & Gaming index advanced 2.98%, benefiting from news Moody's Investors Service on Wednesday changed the rating outlook of Wynn Resorts (WYNN) to stable from negative.

In addition to JPMorgan and Goldman, other big banks will report results later in the week, including Citigroup (C) and Bank of America (BAC).

Most overseas markets also rose sharply, buoyed by news that the decline in China's exports slowed in September.

JPMorgan Chase, the first major bank to report third-quarter earnings, handily beat Wall Street's expectations, reporting a profit of $3.59 billion for the July-September period. However, the bank said loan losses are still high and are likely to remain elevated for some time.

Intel also beat analysts' estimates, reporting a smaller-than-expected decline in profit and sales after the market closed Tuesday. The chip maker said it expects sales in the final period of the year to top analyst projections.

The big gains in stocks followed the market's modest losses on Tuesday, sparked by a disappointing decline in sales at Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) that fanned fears that consumers and businesses are still curbing their spending. In Asia on Wednesday, China's Shanghai index rose 1.2%, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng index jumped 2%. Japan's Nikkei index slipped 0.2%. In afternoon trading, Britain's FTSE 100 gained 1.98%, Germany's DAX index jumped 2.45%, and France's CAC-40 rallied 2.14%.

The FOMC minutes released Wednesday indicated policymakers believed an economic recovery was underway, with developments in the financial seen as "broadly positive." They were encouraged by the improvement in the housing market and the stabilization of prices. Although risks to the outlook had become more balanced, the economy was nevertheless seen remaining "quite weak," with resource utilization low while unemployment was likely to remain high. Bank credit remained difficult and or costly to obtain.

In economic news Wednesday, U.S. business inventories fell 1.5% in August, while sales rose 1.0%. The inventory/sales ratio plunged to 1.33 months from 1.36 in July, barely above its year-ago level of 1.30. The market had expected a 0.9% inventory drop. The big decline was concentrated in autos, where the cash for clunkers program got cars off the lot. Auto dealer inventories fell 9.5%, and are down 30.9% from a year ago. Inventories are down 13.2% from a year ago, while sales are down 14.9%.

Import prices edged up 0.1% in September, after surging 1.6% the month before. The September reading was much tamer than the 0.3% rate that markets had expected.

U.S. retail sales fell 1.5% in September, because of a 10.4% drop at auto dealers after the end of the clunkers program. Excluding autos, sales rose 0.5%. The consensus estimate was for a 2.0% drop overall, and a 0.2% rise excluding autos. The August increase was revised downward to a 2.2% increase form the 2.7% estimated last month, mostly because of a revision to the auto data.

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