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March 25th, 2009
11:55 AM ET

Financial Dispatch: Wall Street’s rally reloaded

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Andrew Torgan
CNN Financial News Producer

Stocks regained their momentum this morning, fueled by unexpectedly strong reports on manufacturing and home sales, and one day after President Obama defended his administration's ability to combat the economic crisis in a primetime news conference.

During that news conference, Mr. Obama said there would be no “quick fixes” for the recession and that it would take time for the economy to recover. But he also insisted his administration has a strategy in place to "attack this crisis on all fronts."

A little more than an hour into the trading day, the Dow Industrials were up 200 points and the Nasdaq Composite and the S&P 500 were adding more than 2% each.

A little more on those reports now.

New orders for long-lasting manufactured goods unexpectedly rebounded in February, rising for the first time in seven months.

The Commerce Department said durable goods orders rose 3.4% to $165.6 billion in February, the biggest increase since December 2007. That comes on the heels of a more than 7% drop in the prior month and indicates that businesses are staring to spend again.

And sales of newly constructed homes unexpectedly rose in February, rebounding nearly 5% after sinking to the lowest level on record in January.

That was the first increase since July, and it comes after sales tumbled to all-time lows in recent months. On Monday, we learned that sales of previously-owned homes rose 5.1%.

Today’s report also showed that the median sales price of new houses sold in February was $200,900, down 18% from $245,300 a year ago.

Mortgage applications jumped last week as record low interest rates spurred a surge in demand for home refinancing loans.

The Mortgage Bankers Association said its seasonally-adjusted index of mortgage applications, which includes both purchase and refinance loans, increased 32.2% to 1,159.4 for the week ended March 20.

Refinancing accounted for 78.5% of all applications.

The Obama Administration today released more details of its plan to give the government more power to take over and wind down troubled financial companies deemed too big to fail.

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner proposed that the Treasury be the one to make the final call of when a non-banking firm, such as AIG or Lehman Brothers, is in deep trouble and needs government intervention. The Treasury Dept. would do so after talking with the Federal Reserve and the president, according to Treasury plans.

For days, Geithner has been saying that he needs more power to step in to prevent the kind of collapse of the financial sector that threatens to deepen the recession.

Gas prices rose 2-cents overnight to $1.986 a gallon, the 8th consecutive increase.

Eight states and the District of Columbia have regular unleaded gas prices of $2 and higher. 32 states have regular unleaded gas prices below $2.

The highest gas prices are in Alaska ($2.510), while the cheapest are in Wyoming ($1.783).

Despite the recent run-up, gas prices are still more than 50% below the record high price of $4.114 that AAA reported on July 17, 2008.

Finally, despite turbulence in the financial markets and the global economic downturn, the world's 25 top-earning hedge fund managers raked in a staggering $11.6 billion last year, according to a ranking released this morning.

On average, the managers took home $464 million each, Alpha magazine's annual list of top hedge fund earners showed. By comparison, the average take home pay in 2007 was a whopping $892 million.

Leading the pack was James Simons of New York's Renaissance Technologies, who took home $2.5 billion in 2008.


Filed under: Andrew Torgan • Economy • Finance • Gas Prices • Oil • Wall St.
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