NEW YORK - U.S. shares bolted higher Wednesday as U.S. and British forces closed in on Baghdad, claiming a string of successes on the battlefield.
"Last week, it was all about the war dragging on forever but today's news is seen as bringing us one step closer to the end," said Jay Susskind, director of trading at Ryan, Beck and Co.
The Dow Jones industrials average of 30 top stocks soared 205.47 points or 2.55 percent to 8,275.33 in late morning trade.
The broader Standard and Poor's 500 index shot up 20.81 points or 2.42 percent to 879.29.
The technology-laden Nasdaq leapt 44.42 points or 3.29 percent to 1,392.72.
Investors cheered a U.S. claim to have destroyed a division of elite Republican Guards in a "last push" towards the Iraqi capital, ignoring Iraqi denials, Susskind said.
In Qatar, U.S. command officials said that U.S. troops had rescued a 19-year-old female soldier taken prisoner by Iraqi forces, adding that 11 unidentified corpses had been found in the raid.
"It looks as though the war is progressing," said Peter Cardillo, strategist at Global Partner Securities.
"It might be shorter than people expected last week," Cardillo said.
"The market is not looking at earnings or economic numbers, it seems like the market is forecasting post-war oil coming down, the dollar rallying," he added.
Airlines climbed on news that a key House of Representatives panel had cleared 3.2 billion dollars in aid to help the industry survive a buffeting from the Iraq war.
The amount was slightly less than the 3.5 billion dollars approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee.
The two versions would have to be reconciled before being sent to a skeptical White House for signature by President George W. Bush.
"The amounts they have passed we believe are excessive," said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer, who told reporters that the administration did not oppose some assistance for ailing air carriers.
AMR Corp., parent of the world's biggest carrier American Airlines, surged 61 cents or 20.33 percent to 3.61 dollars.
American Airlines has soared in past days after reaching a last-minute deal with its main unions to cut costs and avoid bankruptcy.
Continental Airlines climbed 41 cents to 5.99 dollars, Delta advanced 31 cents to 9.11 dollars and Southwest rose 40 cents to 14.58 dollars.
U.S. financial stocks also put in a strong performance.
JP Morgan was up 85 cents at 24.74 dollars, Goldman Sachs rose 1.97 dollars to 71.59 dollars and American Express climbed 1.03 dollars to 34.57 dollars.
Technology stocks rebounded. Intel rose 66 cents to 17.08 dollars, AMD climbed 36 cents to 6.74 dollars, IBM advanced 2.50 dollars to 81.23 dollars and Microsoft surged 1.09 dollars to 25.44 dollars.
Bonds retreated, with the yield on the 10-year US Treasury bond rising to 3.907 percent from 3.827 percent Tuesday and on the 30-year bond to 4.894 percent from 4.843 percent. Bond yields and prices move in opposite directions.
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