The Dow Jones industrial average touched a key psychological milestone yesterday, entering the five-figure territory, as some upbeat earnings reports spurred hopes that the economy is ambling towards normalcy.  Investors looking for signs of an economic rebound cheered Intel and JP Morgan’s better-than-expected quarterly results even as strong retail sales numbers signaled consumer spending was beginning to rebound.

On Wednesday, the Dow Jones industrial average jumped 144.80 points, or 1.5%, to 10,015.86, its biggest one-day gain since August 21 and highest close since October 3 last year.  The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 18.83 points, or 1.8%, to 1,092.02, it new 2009 high.  The Nasdaq composite index surged 32.34 points, or 1.5%, to 2,172.23.  Since hitting their 12-year lows in March of this year, the S&P 500 has jumped more than 61% as of Wednesday’s close, and the Dow is up 53%.

Amid an improving global economic sentiment, the Dow’s brush with the 10,000-mark was a foregone conclusion but the seven-month old rally has made many wonder if a sharp correction is in the offing.  That correction, though, is yet to materialize and investors have jumped to buy on dips, helping stocks continue their advance.  Nevertheless, it remains to be seen where the markets are headed amid lingering threats like rising unemployment, a weak housing market and sloppy consumer spending.  

Yesterday, crude prices went above the $75 level to close at $75.18 a barrel, its highest close of the year. Gold prices hovered near the $1,065 per ounce level.  Meanwhile, safe-havens such as US Treasuries fell, with the 10-year closing the session off 23/32, as its yield rose to 3.423%.

The fuel for Wednesday’s rally was provided by promising earnings results from Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) and JP Morgan (NYSE:JPM), and further helped by CSX’s (NYSE:CSX) strong numbers.  Intel’s (NASDAQ:INTC) quarterly results beat expectations, and the chipmaker offered better-than-expected fourth quarter revenue guidance.  JP Morgan’s (NYSE:JPM) better-than-expected results came on the strength of its underwriting revenues offsetting credit card and consumer loan losses; profits rose nearly seven times.  This morning Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) reported numbers that was well above estimates, coming in at $5.25 per share, versus Zacks projections of $4.14 per share, and sharply above last year’s $1.81.

Today’s schedule contains numbers from such companies as Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS), IBM (NYSE:IBM), Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), Advanced Micro (NYSE:AMD), Harley-Davidson (NYSE:HOG), Safeway (NYSE:SWY).

Zacks Investment Research