Wall Street advances sharply on IBM forecast

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NEW YORK -- Wall Street advanced sharply Monday, with solid preliminary results from IBM encouraging investors to go back into the stock market after last week's rout.

International Business Machines Corp., one of the 30 Dow Jones industrials, released preliminary earnings estimates for the fourth quarter that were 24% above year-earlier levels. The results also beat the forecast of analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial.

After falling nearly 250 points on Friday, the Dow rose more than 170 points Monday.

"The market was pretty oversold," said Richard E. Cripps, chief market strategist for Stifel Nicolaus. "We were due to bounce back, and the IBM news didn't hurt."

IBM's news, coming before as earnings season is about the get under way in earnest, did raise some hopes that fourth-quarter results might not be as bad as feared.

Investors also moved back into financial services stocks ahead of Citigroup Inc. earnings on Tuesday and Merrill Lynch & Co.'s report on Thursday. It is expected both companies will announce further capital injections to stanch bigger-than-feared mortgage-related losses.

The Dow gained 171.85, or 1.36%, to 12,778.15. IBM was the biggest gainer in the Dow, rising $5.26, or 5.4%, to $102.93.

Broader stock indicators also rose. The Standard & Poor's 500 index added 15.23, or 1.09%, to 1,416.25 and the Nasdaq composite index shot up 38.36, or 1.57%, to 2,478.30.

Treasurys were trending slightly higher after fluctuating. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note was 3.79%, down from 3.81% late Friday. Prices and yields trade in opposite directions.

With no major economic data on the calendar, investors focused on corporate and commodities news. Gold futures hit a record, briefly venturing above $913 an ounce as the dollar tumbled against other major currencies. The euro reached a new high above $1.49.

Other commodities were higher, too. Crude oil rose $1.51 to settle at $94.20 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Peter Dunay, investment strategist at Leeb Capital Management, believes the run in commodities prices will continue as Wall Street eyes what the Federal Reserve will do at its Jan. 29-30 meeting. Chairman Ben Bernanke has convinced investors the central bank will cut rates, and the expectation of cheaper money also bolstered sentiment Monday

"We're expecting inflation to be a problem, and believe the commodity demand is going to continue," Dunay said. "We think the Fed is going to throw as much money as they can to keep us out of recession, or keep the recession mild, so commodities will be higher."

Stocks sold off sharply last week after a chorus of Wall Street economists predicted the U.S. is about to slide into a recession. The Dow lost 1.51% during the week, the S&P 500 dropped 0.75% and the Nasdaq gave up 2.58%. However, a recession cannot be declared until there are two quarters in a row of economic shrinkage as measured by gross domestic product data, and that has not occurred yet.

In corporate news, General Motors Corp. Chief Financial Officer Fritz Henderson said that although the GMAC finance wing's auto loan delinquencies were up slightly in the third quarter from year-before levels, the problems for auto loans were not nearly as severe as the credit troubles in the real estate sector. GM sold control of GMAC in 2006 but still owns a large minority stake. GM rose 19 cents to $23.69.

Sears Holdings Corp. warned that its upcoming fourth-quarter report could show a decline as high as 51% from year-earlier levels, adding to concerns that economic weakness is slowing the retail sector. The company Monday forecast a result of $2.59 to $3.48 a share, which would be down from $5.33 a year before and a Thomson Financial forecast of $4.43 a share. Sears fell $4.79, or 5%, to $91.38.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by about 2 to 1 on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume came to 1.27 billion shares. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies rose 7.83, or 1.11%, to 712.48.

Overseas, the Tokyo stock market was closed for a holiday Monday. In Europe London's FTSE 100 rose 0.22%, Germany's DAX advanced 0.18% and Paris' CAC 40 gained 0.60%.
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