Stock market breaks losing streak; Facebook falls

Associated Press
In a May 7, 2012 photo trader Richard Newman works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.  A weekend summit in Washington among leaders of the world's most powerful nations provided little in the way of encouragement for investors already nervous about the political turmoil in Greece.   (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
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In a May 7, 2012 photo trader Richard Newman works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. A weekend …

NEW YORK (AP) — After three weeks of dumping stocks, investors finally found something to be hopeful about.

Major U.S. indexes climbed Monday after falling every day last week. Investors latched on to weekend statements from China's Premier Wen Jiabao, who promised to boost the country's consumption rather than focusing primarily on curbing inflation.

That helped ease the disappointment of what many investors saw as an ambiguous conclusion to the weekend's Group of Eight meeting of world leaders, which produced statements promising to pursue growth in Europe but not much in the way of concrete plans for how to do so.

Caterpillar, which is heavily reliant on demand from China, rose 3 percent. That's only the fourth gain for the stock in May. Several big-name financial firms, including Bank of America and Morgan Stanley, declined; bank stocks tend to fall when investors are concerned about Europe because of the banks' investments there.

Major stock indexes in France, Germany and Britain rose slightly, but Greece and Spain fell. The undercurrent of worries about Europe was strong.

"I wish I could say the coast is clear," said Katherine Nixon, chief investment officer for Northern Trust's personal financial services unit in Chicago. But, "the G-8 didn't really solve anything."

The Dow rose 98 points, or 0.8 percent, to 12,468 in afternoon trading. That was a marked change from its recent performance, which has been crippled by Greece. This month Greece failed to elect a new government and is teetering close to leaving the euro.

Monday was the Dow's first gain after six straight days of losses, and only its third up day for May. Last week was the worst for the Dow since November. The month has wiped out nearly three-quarters of the Dow's gains from January through March.

The other major stock indexes, the Standard & Poor's 500 and the Nasdaq composite, also climbed after days-long droughts. The S&P 500 rose 17 points to 1,312. The Nasdaq jumped 57 points to 2,836.

Despite the broad gains, several well-known companies fell. Facebook plunged 10 percent on its second day as a public company, dropping below Friday's initial public offering price. JPMorgan Chase, under fire for a surprise trading loss, fell 3 percent after announcing it will stop buying back its own stock.

It wasn't clear if the gains represented a corner turned or a temporary moment of relief. Concerns about Europe flowed freely even after the weekend's G-8 summit at Camp David.

Germany's deputy finance minister on Monday derided a plan pushed by the new French president that would require Germany and other stronger European countries to fund "Eurobonds" to prop up weaker countries like Greece and Portugal. Bankia, a bank nationalized by the Spanish government, was ordered to come up with more money for possible bad loans.

Clark Yingst, chief market analyst for investment banking firm Joseph Gunnar in New York, said the G-8 meeting had done little to calm investors' fears. In fact, investors appear to be growing more worried that the European debt problems "might not be as manageable as they previously believed," Yingst said. "Today's rally has nothing to do with what is evolving around Greece."

Yingst was paying close attention to China, after Premier Wen promised to give more priority to boost any slowdown in the country's economic growth, with moves that could include lower taxes and subsidies to encourage consumer spending. China, the world's second-largest economy, has been instrumental in maintaining global growth as other parts of the world have stumbled through the past couple of years. Its economic growth fell to 8.1 percent in the first quarter — a point of envy for most other countries, but a three-year low for China.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note climbed slightly, a sign that investors were pulling out of bonds to invest in stocks. That's something they tend to do when they're more optimistic about the market.

It could also mean they're tired of the paltry returns on government bonds. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note is around 1.7 percent; the dividend yield on S&P 500 stocks is around 2.1 percent, said Jim Russell, chief equity strategist of U.S. Bank's wealth management unit in Cincinnati.

"Bonds are expensive and stocks are cheap," Russell said. "People are sniffing around for deals."

Russell said the market's performance will depend heavily on news that comes out of Europe. Leaders of the 27 European Union countries will hold an informal meeting in Brussels on Wednesday, though it's unlikely that they'll produce any solid game plan before Greece holds elections in June.

Elsewhere, oil prices rose after Iraq's central government told its Kurdish leaders that they must get approval for their oil deals with Turkey.

Lowe's Cos., the world's second largest home improvement chain, slumped 10 percent after lowering its full-year earnings forecast. Campbell Soup fell 2 percent after reporting that its profit fell even after it spent more on marketing to try to attract busy, younger consumers.

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