Bargain Hunters Shoot Stocks Up 550 Points

The Wall St. street sign is photographed in front of the American flag hanging on the New York Stock Exchange prior to a NYC Central Labor Council rally for worker protections, Thursday, Sept. 25, 2008 in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
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NEW YORK - Wall Street launched a massive rebound Thursday, sending the Dow Jones industrial average up nearly 553 points at closing after driving it below the 8,000 mark, as investors decided they did not want to miss out on buying stocks at cheap prices.

The Dow closed around the 8,800 mark; during the day it did not sink below its Oct. 10 trading low of 7,882.51.

After three days of selling that wiped out about $1 trillion in shareholder value, many investors, though nervous about the economy, believed the market had priced in enough bad news. So when the Standard & Poor's 500 index managed to recover from multi-year trading lows, investors swarmed back in.

It's "a herd mentality," said Ryan Larson, senior equity trader at Voyageur Asset Management. "We started going higher - and you don't want to be the last one on the boat."

As stocks rallied, so did oil prices, sending shares of energy companies higher. The biggest gainer among the 30 Dow companies was Chevron Corp., which rose $8.43, or 12.5 percent, to $75.71. Another big gainer was Exxon Mobil Corp., which climbed $6.48, or 9.4 percent, to $75.41; these two energy stocks represented one-fifth of the Dow's point gain Thursday.

The stock market's initial selloff began after the Labor Department reported that the number of newly laid-off individuals seeking unemployment benefits jumped last week to a level not seen since just after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

And there were more signs of a severe pullback in consumer spending, a troubling trend that had pummeled stocks earlier in the week. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. trimmed expectations for full-year earnings, and Intel Corp. late Wednesday cut more than $1 billion from its sales forecast, providing more evidence that few industries are safe from a clampdown on spending by businesses and consumers alike.

But then the S&P lifted above its Oct. 10 trading lows, and a Treasury auction of 30-year bonds got decent demand from both domestic and foreign buyers, said Arthur Hogan, chief market analyst at Jefferies & Co. The auction results alleviated some fears that the government will have a hard time financing its costly bailout.

Hogan called it a "great sign" that the S&P recovered after falling below its Oct. 10 trading lows. "Historically, if you test a low within 45 days and close above it, it's very bullish," he said.