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Markets surge on oil drop, election

Crude closes below $50; Dow gains 177

NEW YORK -- Wall Street bounded higher for the second straight day yesterday as investors reveled in sharply falling oil prices and the probusiness agenda of the second Bush administration. The Dow Jones industrials gained more than 177 points for its best day of 2004, while the Standard & Poor's 500 closed at its highest level since early 2002.

Oil prices tumbled below $49 per barrel, giving investors hope that crude, which climbed steadily through October, could be stabilizing. Yesterday's decline continued a sell-off that began last week amid rising US supplies of crude and expectations of a surge in heating oil production before winter arrives.

Also helping to push prices below $49 a barrel was an Energy Department report showing a larger-than-expected increase last week in the amount of natural gas in storage, which was already abundant.

A barrel of light crude was quoted at $48.82, down $2.06, on the New York Mercantile Exchange -- the lowest settlement price since Sept. 29.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 177.71, or 1.75 percent, to 10,314.76, adding to a 101-point gain on Wednesday. It was the biggest one-day point gain for the Dow since Oct. 1, 2003, and its best close since Sept. 14.

Broader stock indicators were strongly higher. The S&P was up 18.47, or 1.62 percent, at 1,161.67, its highest closing since March 19, 2002. The Nasdaq Composite index gained 19.30, or 0.96 percent, to 2,023.63, its highest close since June 30.

The Dow has posted gains in seven of the last eight sessions, climbing 5.79 percent since Oct. 25. The Nasdaq has gained 5.73 percent and the S&P 500 climbed 6.11 percent over the same period, and both indexes enjoyed their eighth straight positive session.

Whether the rally will continue will likely depend on whether today's job creation report from Labor shows strong employment gains.

Cellphone equipment maker Qualcomm Inc. fell $1.80 to $38.07 on a a lower profit outlook for the upcoming fiscal year.

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