US stocks enjoy biggest weekly rise since March

M. Spencer Green/AP
Jay Aldrich, a trader in the S&P 500 futures pit at the CME Group in Chicago, saw stocks post their best weekly rally in four months.

The US stock market had its best week in four months, buoyed by strong earnings reports from big banks and high-tech firms.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 7 percent for the week to close at 8743.93. It was the strongest weekly showing for the blue-chip index since a 9 percent gain in mid-March, just as stocks began their climb from lows not seen since 1997.

The Standard & Poor's 500 and Nasdaq indexes turned in similarly strong performances, each rising 7 percent for the week. The S&P 500 closed at 940.38 and the Nasdaq ended the week at 1886.61. For the Dow and the S&P, Friday's close marked their highest level in a month. For the Nasdaq, it was the highest level since October 2008.

This week's impressive five-day run-up means that all the major indexes except the Dow are in positive territory for the year. The Dow is less than 1 percent below its close on Dec. 31, 2008.

Stocks were buoyed by a combination of encouraging economic reports and better-than-expected earnings from key companies, including IBM, Google, Intel, Goldman Sachs, and JPMorgan Chase.

The encouraging earnings reports from major banks seemed to ease investors' concerns about the stability of the financial system. The markets shrugged off the possible bankruptcy of CIT Group after its negotiations for a government bailout collapsed on Wednesday.

The Obama administration was upbeat.

"We were at the brink of catastrophe at the beginning of the year but we have walked some substantial distance back from the abyss," Lawrence Summers, head of the White House's National Economic Council, summed up in a speech Friday. "Substantial progress has been made in rescuing the economy from the risk of economic collapse that looked all too real six months ago."

But many economists continue to caution that the economy is not out of the woods yet, as rising unemployment takes its toll on consumer spending.

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