Stocks start second quarter higher as home sales and manufacturing surprise

Stocks tanked early after dismal private-sector employment data pointed toward another bump up in unemployment when the government's official March figures are released. But thanks to better-than-expected readings for manufacturing and existing-home sales, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 153 points, or 2 percent, to 7,762.

All but three of the Dow's 30 components rose, including financial shares, the market awaited a decision from regulators on whether to relax rules governing how banks account for toxic assets. General Motors (GM) was the DJIA's biggest loser after reporting March auto sales fell 45 percent.

Among stocks making headlines today:

General Electric (GE) has been much more vocal on orders of late, and this morning it said that its GE Energy unit is continuing to grow in the Asia Pacific region. The FT also reported that its strategy in health care will pay off for it under current health care trends. Shares were up 0.6% at $10.17.

Fifth Third Bancorp (FITB) rose again after it saw an active day yesterday on heavy call option buying. The culprit is still hopes of a deal coming its way, but you have that to decide on your own. Shares rose 4% to $3.03 right before the close.

3M (MMM) announced that it will add 1,200 more jobs to the layoff pool to address continued weakness in company orders that are expected to be there for the foreseeable future. As Wall Street loves firing workers, shares were still up 1.9% at $50.64 right before the close.

Honda Motor Co. (HMC) will be cutting North American production even further, and will reduce wages of salaried employees in North America. It will also force some of its hourly workers to take unpaid leave as vehicle sales continue to lag. Again, Wall Street loves firings. Shares were up 9% at $25.93 right before the close.

Google Inc. (GOOG) defied the news flow today. There are more reports of the company's share of search having peaked and reports of softening online ad sales out there. Shares were up 1.7% at $354.07 right before the close.
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