Dow Approaches 10,000

Some good news/bad news on the economic front.

The good news is that the Dow has approached 10,000. The bad news is that retail sales are still lousy.

The good news:

Stocks rallied Wednesday morning, with the Dow industrials nearly hitting the 10,000 level for the first time in a year, following better-than-expected quarterly profit reports from Intel and JPMorgan Chase.

The Dow Jones industrial average (INDU) gained 116 points, or 1.2%, to 9987, almost 2 hours into the session. The blue-chip average had risen as high as 9991.68 before stepping back slightly.

The last time the Dow crossed 10,000 during a trading session was Oct. 7, 2008, when it briefly touched 10,124.03

The S&P 500 (SPX) index rose 13 points or 1.2% and the Nasdaq composite (COMP) added 23 points or 1.1%.

The bad news:

Retail sales fell in September after a popular program aimed at boosting auto sales ended, but the drop was smaller than economists had expected, government data showed Wednesday.

The Commerce Department said total retail sales fell 1.5% last month, down sharply from an increase of 2.7% in August, when overall sales were boosted by the government’s Cash for Clunker’s program.

Economists surveyed by Briefing.com had forecast a decline of 2.1% in September sales.

Sales excluding autos and auto parts rose 0.5%, compared to a 1.1% increase in August. Economists expected a gain of 0.2% in September sales, excluding auto purchases.

Consumer confidence growing. The stronger-than-expected gain in sales outside the auto industry suggests that consumers are gradually becoming more confident as the U.S. economy emerges from a deep recession.

“Today’s report is broadly reflective of what we’re seeing in other areas of the economy, and that is a slow and gradual recovery,” said Tim Quinlan, an economist at Wells Fargo.

In general it looks like it will be a s-l-o-w recovery…particularly with jobs loss persisting as a national problem (and notable problem for Democrats heading into 2010).