Monday, April 12, 2010

Dow Above 11,000 For First Time In 18 Months

The Dow Jones industrial average closed above 11,000 for the first time in a year and a half on investors' rising hopes about the economy. The Dow edged up about 9 points Monday to almost 11,006. The Standard & Poor's 500 index came within a point of hitting its own milestone of 1,200 during trading but closed just short of that mark.

Analysts said the Dow's move above 11,000 could provide a psychological boost and perhaps draw more investors to the market.

Stocks have been rising this year on growing expectations that the economy will shake off job market weakness and housing problems. A test of whether the Dow can hold the 11,000 mark will come in the next three weeks when companies report earnings. Investors also will want to see whether the government's next employment report, due in early May, shows that employers added jobs in April as they did during March.

On Monday, a loan agreement for Greece allowed U.S. investors to focus on domestic economic and corporate news, including announcements of two big deals.

European Union leaders agreed over the weekend to make loans available to Greece to help the country lower its public debt burden. The 16 countries that use the euro agreed to provide $40.5 billion to Greece if needed. The International Monetary Fund could contribute another $13.5 billion.

Investors have been concerned that mounting debt in Greece and other European nations including Spain and Portugal would stunt a global recovery.

Meanwhile, the latest round of corporate dealmaking signaled that business leaders are more confident about a recovery.

Mirant Corp. agreed to acquire rival power company Reliant Energy Inc. for $1.61 billion, while the private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management is buying DynCorp International, a provider of support services to U.S. national security operations, for $1 billion.

The reports on Greece and the corporate buyouts raised expectations that the economy is recovering. Hopes of a rebound have been driving the stock market higher for 13 months. The advance since February has been more incremental but the gains have still left major stock indexes at their best levels since 2008.

The Dow rose 8.62, or 0.1 percent, to 11,005.97. It was the Dow's first close above 11,000 since Sept. 26, 2008. The index climbed above 11,000 in the final moments of trading Friday before fading below the threshold.

The Dow has posted six straight weekly advances, its longest winning streak in a year. The index has added 1,000 points in two months. The index's only close below 10,000 this year came on Feb. 8. Since then, it's up 11 percent.

It has risen 68.1 percent since hitting a 12-year low in March last year though it is still down 22.3 percent from its peak or 14,164.53 in October 2007.

Senate OKs Extension Of Jobless Benefits

Democrats in the Senate have won an initial skirmish to restore unemployment benefits to hundreds of thousands of jobless people despite Republican criticism that it would add $9 billion to the nation's debt.

The 60-34 vote kills a GOP filibuster against debating the measure, which would extend benefits through the end of the month. It came as senators in both parties blamed each other for allowing them to lapse last week. That means hundreds of thousands of people who have been out of work for more than six months will miss federally financed benefits averaging $335 a week.

Republicans blocked the measure from advancing last month. It would buy time while House-Senate talks continue on a far larger measure to extend them through the end of the year.

'Avatar' Stars Protest Brazil Dam

Director James Cameron and actress Sigourney Weaver are in Brazil to protest against a proposed dam in the Amazon that would be the world's third-largest hydroelectric project.

The Hollywood celebrities will join about 1,000 demonstrators in Brasilia's streets Monday as they urge the government to halt the planned Belo Monte project.

Brazil's government says Belo Monte will provide much-needed clean energy for the country.

But Indian groups say they will be displaced by the dam. Environmentalists say its benefits won't make up for the damage to the jungle.

The "Avatar" director was in the Amazon last month with former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, pushing for a halt to rain forest destruction.

Fatal Train Crash In Northern Italy

A landslide has derailed a train in north-eastern Italy, killing at least nine people and injuring about 30, Italian media say. The accident occurred in a mountain valley near the winter sports town of Merano, close to the Austrian border.

Trees prevented the train plunging into a river, and firefighters are said to have used cables to secure the wagons. Officials say the landslide may have been caused by a leaking water pipe further up the hillside.

An investigation is under way.

The accident took place at around 0900 (0700 GMT) on the line from Castelbello to Laces, not far from the city of Bolzano. The authorities say the mass of water, mud and rock came without warning, burying the regional train as it passed through the alpine valley, the BBC's Bethany Bell reports from the scene.

The death toll had been put at 11, although this was later revised down to nine because of what provincial governor Luis Durnwalder said was a "counting error". But he warned Ansa news agency that the toll was not final as "there could still be someone buried in the mud".

Mickelson Dedicates Win To Wife

An emotional Phil Mickelson dedicated his third Masters win to his wife, who has been battling breast cancer.

"It feels incredible. I could go on and on about why but to win this tournament is a special, special day," said Mickelson, who won by three shots.

"It's something I'll always cherish. It's been an emotional year. I'm very proud of my wife and the fight and struggle she's been through.

"This win has been one of the best things we've been through."

Mickelson's closing 67 gave him a 16-under-par aggregate of 272 and it was the first of his four majors - he also won the 2005 USPGA - where he has come from behind on the last day to win.

The deficit to Lee Westwood with 18 holes to play was only one but Mickelson produced a bogey-free round with five birdies to usurp the Englishman at the top of the leaderboard and seal the title.

The left-hander became overcome with emotion and shared a long embrace with wife Amy just off the 18th green.

"I was just really glad she was there - I wasn't sure she was going to be - and it's something that I'll look back on and just cherish," he revealed.

"To have Amy and my kids here to share it with, I can't put into words. It just feels incredible, especially given what we've been through in the last year."

It has been almost a year since Amy has been battling breast cancer and in that time Mickelson has alternated between playing golf and taking time off to be with her and his mother who was diagnosed with the same condition.

On the Web:

13-year-old American To Scale Mount Everest

Jordan Romero has set off from Nepal's capital, Kathmandu, to the base camp on the Chinese side of the mountain. He will begin his ascent there, along with his father and stepmother.

Jordan climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania aged 10 and wants to be the youngest person to climb the highest mountains on seven continents.

His father and stepmother have been with him on all his mountain climbs.

The current record for the youngest climber of Everest is held by Nepali Temba Tsheri, who was 16 when he reached the peak in 2001.

Jordan Romero has already climbed the highest peaks in every continent apart from Asia, although he is not planning to tackle the Vinson Massif in Antarctica.

The latest post on his website says: "It's time to mobilise" and that the five-day drive to the Chinese base camp was about to begin.

There have been concerns about allowing somebody of Jordan's age to make the ascent but he has said he will not take any unnecessary risks and will turn around if any problems arise.

Before he begins climbing, he will spend some weeks acclimatising at base camp.

Asked if, given the risks, a 13-year-old could make an informed decision to climb Everest, his mother, Leigh Ann Drake, told the BBC World Service that her son would be with his father the whole time.

She also said that Jordan was "not an adrenalin junkie".

"He's very quiet and focused and determined and he is not there to suffer loss. Everybody is very clear on this. Jordan's safety, from the top of his head to the tip of his toes, is everybody's number one priority."

According to his mother, Jordan is: "taking his algebra book and some writing assignments" on his ascent.

"He's going to have some down-time in those tents," she said, "so why not take some books along?"

On the Web: Jordan Romero

Latest Earthquakes Via USGS
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Yesterday 7.7 Northern Sumatra, Indonesia Map
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The Wall Street Journal; AP; BBC; Reuters; UPI; CBS Sports

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