Markets Hit 18-Month High on Positive Inflation Outlook


The markets continued to rack up gains with the Dow Jones Industrial Average, S&P 500 and NASDAQ all closing Wednesday at 18-month highs, boosted by signs that the Federal Reserve intends to keep interest rates at rock-bottom levels for some time, indicating that the Fed isn't worried about inflation.

With investors' concerns allayed on the interest rate and inflation fronts, the Dow finished up 47.69 to 10,733.67, while the NASDAQ finished at 2,389.09, up 11.08. The broader S&P 500 finished up more than 0.5% at 1,166.21, and is up 72% from its 12-year lows set last March.

The following is a round-up of the most active, gainers and losers from Wednesday's trading session:

• Fuqi International (FUQI) led decliners with a 37% drop or $7.03 after the Chinese jewelry company admitted accounting errors and exaggerated earnings.

• Blockbuster (BBI) sank 30% or 12 cents after acknowledging that it is unable to negotiate credit terms with movie studios to buy new inventory, and may have to file for bankruptcy.

• Hartford Financial Services (HIG) jumped 5% after reporting that it will sell $2.38 billion in stock to pay back federal loans it received under the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

• Massey Energy (MEE) neared its 52-week high, finishing up 6% or $3.04. This week, the company agreed to pay $960 million for Cumberland Resources.

• Storage chip maker LSI (LSI) was upgraded to strong buy from outperform and finished up nearly 9% or 52 cents.

• Reports of a possible dividend increase pushed International Paper (IP) up 6.4% or $1.6.

• Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co. (BOI) increased nearly 18%, or $4.81, on reports that it is leading a $425 million investment group into power provider Asian Genco.

• Sprint Nextel (S) finished up 4.6% or 16 cents, after Google (GOOG) announced the cellular provider will support its Nexus One smart phone.

• Eli Lilly (LLY) increased slightly by 0.11% or 4 cents. This past weekend, thieves broke into one of its Connecticut warehouses and stole $76 million in medications.

• Ford Motors (F) finished at a five-year high, up 4.5% or 61 cents after Moody's upgraded the car company's stock.

• Aluminum producer Alcoa (AA) finished up nearly 5% or 66 cents, based on the Fed's move to keep rates steady.

• Simon Property Group (SPG) went up 1.75% or $1.47 on news that it is weighing a higher bid for General Growth Properties (GGP).