Iraqis official acceptance of the U.N. resolution demanding access for weapons inspectors helped set the markets on fire. Worry exists that Iraq will continue the same delaying games and rites of obfuscation that it engaged in throughout the 1990s, but todayis markets chose to focus on the positive.
Added to this was good news on the retail front that showed consumer spending was flat in October. Consumer Confidence plunged in September, and spending had been trending downward also. Todayis numbers offer the suggestion that spending has solidified, and indeed may be on the rise, when excluding auto sales. From a CBS Marketwatch report:
Retail sales were unchanged in October at a seasonally adjusted $301.7 billion, despite a 1.9 percent drop in auto sales, the Commerce Department estimated Thursday.
Excluding autos, sales rose 0.7 percent to $230 billion, the biggest gain in six months.
Sales at clothing stores jumped 4 percent, the largest increase since December. Sales at department stores rose 1.2 percent, the largest gain in 14 months. Sales at catalog and Internet stores rose 1.4 percent, the biggest gain since January. Read the full release.
The figures exceeded expectations of Wall Street economists, who were forecasting a 0.2 percent drop in total sales and a smaller 0.3 percent gain in ex-auto sales.
The markets reacted positively, sending stocks higher in a broad rally. Tech stocks in particular fared well, as a war against Iraq is being thought of as having a negative effect on tech spending.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average ended at 8,542.13, up 143.64 (+1.71%). The S&P 500 Index finished at 904.27, a gain of 21.74 (2.46%). The NASDAQ Composite Index rose to 1,411.52, higher by 50.18 (3.69%). On Monday Apple rose 4.55% to close at 16.30, up 0.71, on very light volume of 2,531,040 shares trading hands.
Apple named Tony Ho as its new vice President of Asia Pacific (see our full coverage for more information). Asia is becoming one of the most important geographic markets for the computer industry, helped in part by Chinais slow acceptance of capitalism. Apple has traditionally fared very poorly in Asia, with the notable exception of Japan, and gas maintained a comparatively weak presence in most Asian countries. Mr. Ho will be tasked with building Appleis market share and sales throughout Asia, excluding Japan.