Stocks try to make it 5 in a row

Wall Street advances at the open as investors ponder a weekend of talk about the global economy.

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What progress is the Obama administration making toward ending the recession?
  • It's succeeding
  • The recovery is too slow
  • It's not helping at all

NEW YORK ( -- Bank stocks led a bigger rally Monday morning, as investors looked to extend the recent advance to a fifth straight session.

The Dow Jones industrial average (INDU) added 74 points, or 1%, in the early going. The S&P 500 (SPX) index added 9 points, or 1.2%. The Nasdaq composite (COMP) gained 6 points, or 0.5%.

Friday's modest gains pushed the Dow up 9% over the past four sessions. A week ago, the blue-chip indicator stood at a nearly 12-year low.

Todd Leone, head trader at Cowen & Co., said investors are feeling more confident about the financial markets after the British bank Barclays (BCS) said it had a "strong start to 2009."

Leone said that "Barclays coming out and saying that they made money in the first few months" is similar to comments made last week in a memo by Citigroup (C, Fortune 500) Chief Executive Vikram Pandit, which helped fuel a rally. Barclays gained 14% in the morning, while Citigroup gained 10%.

Leone said the "oversold" U.S. markets could follow the momentum of overseas markets for a rally Monday.

Robert Brusca, chief economist at Fact and Opinion Economics, said positive comments from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke helped to fuel early morning trading, as well as strength in the overseas markets.

"He was reassuring," said Brusca. "I think he's got the right balance of reactions to what's going on. [He said] we'll all get through this if we have the political will. My sense of it is that we're heading in the right direction."

Economy: Bernanke, in an interview on CBS' "60 Minutes," said that while obstacles remain, government officials are laying the groundwork for an economic recovery that can begin next year.

Finance ministers of the G-20 nations met over the weekend in Horsham, England, urging more regulation and oversight of fiscal institutions to help prevent another monetary crisis. They also backed increased support for the International Monetary Fund and Asian Development Bank.

The ministers, including Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, set the groundwork for the meeting of G-20 leaders on April 2 in London.

In the United States, Geithner and President Obama are scheduled to unveil a plan Monday to increase lending to small businesses.

Companies: AIG (AIG, Fortune 500), the beleaguered insurer, yielded to congressional demands Sunday and named the banks that have benefited from the $170 billion taxpayer-funded bailout of the company. Among those names are several European banks, and American companies Goldman Sachs (GS, Fortune 500) and Merrill Lynch.

Global markets: Asian stocks ended higher, with Tokyo's Nikkei index up 1.8% . European stocks were higher in afternoon trading.

Oil slid $1.92 to $44.33 a barrel after OPEC ministers meeting in Vienna, Austria, agreed to keep production steady in order to help the global economy. The dollar slipped against the euro but rose against the yen. To top of page

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