Stocks touch new '09 highs

Wall Street advances on Bernanke appointment, signs of stability in the housing market and a rise in the consumer confidence index.

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By Alexandra Twin, senior writer

Should Ben Bernanke be reconfirmed for a second term as Fed chairman?
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NEW YORK( -- Stocks gained Tuesday, extending the recent rally, after reports showed that consumer confidence and home prices are starting to recover.

News that President Obama is nominating Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke for a second term in office added to the positive sentiment.

The Dow Jones industrial average (INDU) added 30 points, or 0.3% and closed at its highest point since Nov. 4. The S&P 500 (SPX) index gained 2 points, or 0.2% and closed at its highest point since Nov. 6. The Nasdaq composite (COMP) rose 6 points, or 0.3% and the highest close since Oct. 1.

Stocks slipped Monday as investors took a step back after pushing the major gauges to new 2009 highs Friday. But after Monday's brief hiccup, stocks resumed their advance Tuesday.

Stock gains were pretty broad based, with 21 of 30 Dow stocks rising, led by Boeing (BA, Fortune 500), JPMorgan Chase (JPM, Fortune 500), United Technologies (UTX, Fortune 500) and Travelers Companies (TRV, Fortune 500).

But falling oil prices cut into any stock gains, dragging down the influential energy sector. Dow components Exxon Mobil (XOM, Fortune 500) and Chevron (CVX, Fortune 500) declined and the Amex Oil (XOI) index was off 1%.

Since bottoming at a 12 1/2 year low on March 9, the S&P 500 is up 52% as of Tuesday's close. The pace and breadth of the run up has left many Wall Streeters calling for a big selloff in September and October. But so far, there has been no indication of that.

"Generally, the market keeps moving higher even though so-called experts are saying it's overbought," said Terry Morris, senior equity manager, National Penn Investors Trust. "It's surprisingly strong. Maybe we have turned a corner."

Wednesday preview: Wednesday brings reports on new home sales and durable goods orders, both from the Commerce Department.

New home sales are expected to have risen to a 390,000 unit annualized rate in July from a 384,000 unit annualized rate in June, according to forecasts.

July durable goods orders are expected to have risen 3.2% after falling 2.5% in June. Orders excluding transportation are expected to have risen 1% after rising 1.1% in June.

The weekly crude oil inventories report from the Energy Information Administration is also due in mid morning.

Consumer confidence: Stocks hit the highs of the day just after the 10 a.m. ET release of the August Consumer Confidence index. The index rose to 54.1, surprising economists who thought it would rise to 47.9. The index stood at a revised 47.4 in July.

While the report was significant, it doesn't often correlate to what the consumer ends up doing, said Kim Caughey, senior equity analyst at Fort Pitt Capital Group.

"Unemployment is continuing to rise, and that's going to keep the consumer out for the time being," Caughey said. She said inventory rebuilding on the part of corporations will help support the economy in the short term, rather than a rise in consumer spending.

She said the Bernanke announcement was more notable.

Fed: President Obama nominated Ben Bernanke to chair the Federal Reserve for a second term, announcing the reappointment months ahead of the expiration of Bernanke's current term.

The reappointment is expected to receive the approval of the Senate.

"There was a bit of uncertainty around Bernanke's reappointment and the fact that the announcement was made today is driving the gains," Caughey said.

Housing: Home prices rose 2.9% in the second-quarter versus the first quarter, according to an S&P/Case-Shiller report. That's the first quarterly rise in prices in three years and could signal that the housing market has bottomed.

The 20-city index declined 15.4% in June versus a year ago, but that was shy of forecasts for a drop of 16.4% versus a year ago.

Budget: The White House released its deficit and economic forecast. It predicts a federal budget deficit of $9 trillion over the next decade and a deficit of $1.58 trillion in 2009. The $9 trillion is $2 trillion more than what the administration had forecast previously.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its own forecast shortly after the Obama administration. The CBO said the 2009 deficit will total $1.6 trillion.

World markets: European markets rallied, while Asian markets slid, with the Japanese Nikkei losing 0.7%.

Oil: U.S. light crude oil for October delivery fell $2.32 to settle at $72.05 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, after touching a new 10-month high in the morning.

Bonds: Treasury prices inched higher, lowering the corresponding yields, following a positive response to the first of three government debt auctions this week. The rise in prices lowered the yield on the benchmark 10-year note to 3.44% from 3.47% Friday. Treasury prices and yields move in opposite directions.

Treasury sold $42 billion of 2-year notes Tuesday and is planning to sell $39 billion of five-year notes Wednesday and $28 billion of 7-year notes Thursday.

Other markets: COMEX gold for December delivery rose $2.30 to settle at $946 an ounce.

In currency trading, the dollar rose versus the euro and gained versus the Japanese yen.

Market breadth was positive. On the New York Stock Exchange, winners topped losers three to two on volume of 1.14 billion shares. On the Nasdaq, advancers beat decliners seven to six on volume of 1.95 billion shares.

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