Stocks up for third day to record highs

MarketWatchApril 10, 2013 

NEW YORK -- U.S. stocks on Wednesday rose for a third straight day, with the Dow Jones industrial average and S&P 500 index having their best sessions in six weeks.

Minutes from the Federal Reserve's March meeting had several Fed officials saying the central bank should taper its bond purchases later in the year and halt it altogether by year-end if the labor market improves.

But the meeting came before a government report last week said U.S. payrolls in March expanded at their slowest pace in nine months, a dismal read that could affect future Fed moves.

"We care about liquidity and momentum," said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at BMO Private Bank in Chicago.

"There are people tiptoeing out of bonds into stocks in search of yield and incremental growth, and that's why the leading sectors this year are offensive," said Ablin, pointing to health care as an example.

All 10 industries in the S&P 500 rose, with the index climbing to an intraday record of 1,589.07 to surpass the previous record set in October 2007. The index closed at a record 1,587.73, up 19.12 points, or 1.2 percent.

"The next stop looks like 1,600 on the S&P by Friday," emailed Elliot Spar, market strategist at Stifel, Nicolaus & Co., in afternoon commentary.

The Dow Jones industrial average added 128.78 points, or 0.9 percent, to 14,802.24, also closing at a record and after setting an intraday record of 14,826.66 during the session. It was its best point gain since Feb. 27 and its best percentage gain since March 5.

Up the most since Jan. 2, the Nasdaq composite rose 59.40 points, or 1.8 percent, to 3,297.25. It was its highest close since November 2000.

"As of yet, we're unable to find a catalyst to move this market lower," said Art Hogan, market strategist at Lazard Capital Markets.

"As we get further into earnings next week, how many will say, 'We're seeing a pullback because of payroll taxes and gasoline prices'?" Hogan asked, saying corporate outlooks could determine whether the market breaks its current upward trend, which has the S&P 500 index up more than 11 percent this year.

The price of oil climbed for a third consecutive session, with crude futures for May delivery rising 44 cents to $94.64 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

On the other hand, gold was hit, with the precious metal falling more than 1 percent on the day after Goldman Sachs cut its forecast for the year.

The Fed minutes showed several Fed members advocated that the central bank start to taper its quantitative-easing program later in the year, with the goal of halting it altogether by year-end.

"Since we had a soft patch in the economic data cycle, I think that has tempered our view of what the minutes mean to us," said Lazard's Hogan.

"If we had a number north of 200,000 jobs on Friday, along with the ongoing debate as to whether the Fed should taper, the market would be reacting negatively today," he added.

After sending out the market-moving minutes from its last policy-setting meeting to congressional staffers and trade groups a day early, the Fed moved up the release of the minutes by five hours.

President Barack Obama on Wednesday submitted his proposed 2014 budget to Congress, with his plan viewed as laying the ground for talks on a broader debt-reduction package.

U.S. deficit-cutting efforts are "too aggressive in the short term and too timid in the medium term," an approach that threatens U.S. and global economic growth, Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, told a forum organized by The Economic Club of New York.

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