Stocks’ resiliency quells recovery fears

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NEW YORK (AP) – Stocks are snapping back from Friday’s big losses as stronger-than-expected reports on manufacturing and housing ease investors’ concerns about how durable the economic recovery will be.

Major indexes rose more than 0.5 percent in midday trading Monday, including the Dow Jones industrials, which jumped about 80 points after tumbling 250 points on Friday.

Investors also scooped up commodities like oil and gold as they moved out of safe-haven assets like the dollar and Treasurys. The Chicago Board Options Exchange’s Volatility Index, known as the market’s fear gauge, retreated about 5 percent after soaring to its highest level since July on Friday.

The gains in stocks came after the Institute for Supply Management said the manufacturing industry grew at the fastest pace in October since April 2006. The ISM manufacturing index clocked in at 55.7, much better than the 53 economists had expected. It was the third month in a row the index came in above 50, which indicates growth.

Meanwhile, the National Association of Realtors said pending home sales increased for the eighth straight month in September. The index rose 6.1 percent from August to 110.1. It was the highest reading since December 2006 and more than 21 percent above a year ago. Economists had expected the index would be level at 103.8.

Also Monday, the Commerce Department said construction spending increased 0.8 percent in September, matching the gain in August. Economists had been expecting a 0.3 percent decline.

“This should help relieve some of the fears that the recovery is not sustainable,” said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist Avalon Partners Inc. of the reports.

The major indexes had been up modestly prior to the reports, getting a boost from a surprise profit from Ford Motor Co. Ford said deep cost cuts and the government’s Cash for Clunkers rebates helped it earn nearly $1 billion in the third quarter. Shares soared more than 9 percent in early trading.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 79.13, or 0.8 percent, to 9,791.86. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 6.99, or 0.7 percent, at 1,043.18, and the Nasdaq composite index rose 8.62, or 0.4 percent, to 2,053.73.

About two stocks rose for every one that fell on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume came to 601.4 million shares, compared with 462.4 million shares at the same time on Friday.

Stocks are coming off a volatile week, having posted their biggest losses in four months on Friday after rising sharply a day earlier on stronger-than-expected economic growth in the third quarter. Friday’s losses helped send the Standard & Poor’s 500 index into the red for the month of October, breaking a seven-month streak of gains.

The 3.5 percent growth in the U.S. economy in the third quarter was largely driven by government stimulus efforts. Investors have worried that once those measures run out, high unemployment and weak consumer spending will put a strain on the economy.

The market took in stride news that commercial lender CIT Group Inc. filed for bankruptcy protection on Sunday after a debt-exchange offer to bondholders failed. The filing, one of the biggest in U.S. corporate history, did not come as a surprise, as the lender has been struggling for months to restructure its debt. CIT’s prepackaged reorganization plan should speed up the restructuring process and could allow the lender to exit bankruptcy by the end of the year.

As the market heads into the final months of the year, investors are trying to determine whether the bets they’ve been placing on a rebound in the economy over the past several months have been warranted. Even with the S&P 500’s 2 percent loss in October, the index is still up 53.2 percent from a 12-year low in March.

“The question is, is the trend changing?” said Jim Dunigan, managing executive of investments at PNC Wealth Management. “We’ve been in an up trend here.”