Saturday, March 14, 2009

Global stocks surge, oil drops on OPEC report

Updated at: 1755 PST, Saturday, March 14, 2009

NEW YORK: Global stocks strode higher on Friday, capping their best week since a record surge last November, as optimism that ailing U.S. banks are on the mend eased investor fears and snuffed the safe-haven appeal of government debt and the dollar.The price on benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury notes fell late in the session as Wall Street trimmed earlier losses, curbing bids for less risky assets going into the weekend.The dollar gave up gains as U.S. stocks rose further into positive territory, lifted by a Sanford C. Bernstein upgrade of Merck & Co (MRK.N) and comments by Citigroup (C.N) late on Thursday that it did not need any more government aid.The broker said Merck's takeover bid for Schering-Plough (SGP.N) was shrewd, helping lift drugmakers, while a Reuters interview with Citigroup Chairman Richard Parsons capped a week of news suggesting heavily battered banks are stabilizing.The benchmark S&P 500 index jumped 10.7 percent this week, its third best weekly gain since World War Two. This week's surge came after a new bear market low on March 6, and the record followed the previous low set in late November.Stocks around the world as measured by MSCI's all-country stock index .MIWD00000PUS also posted their best week since late November, up about 8.4 percent for the week.News this week that Citigroup, Bank of America and JPMorgan were all profitable in January and February boosted both U.S. and European banking shares.The KBW banking index .BKX gained 37 percent, and the DJ Stoxx European banks .SX7P rose 18.1 percent over the week."Financials have been continuing to push upwards following news from Citigroup and news that Bank of America is giving visibility for the rest of the year," said Nomura strategist Philip Lawlor.The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI closed up 53.92 points, or 0.75 percent, at 7,223.98. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index .SPX rose 5.81 points, or 0.77 percent, at 756.55. The Nasdaq Composite Index .IXIC added 5.40 points, or 0.38 percent, at 1,431.50.European shares rose for a fourth straight day. The FTSEurofirst 300 .FTEU3 index of top European companies closed 0.8 percent higher at 702.12 points, its first close above 700 since the end of February.Oil fell toward $46 a barrel as bearish forecasts for demand outweighed the potential for an agreement by members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to further production cuts at its meeting this Sunday.

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