A few kind words about Goldman Sachs sent financial shares soaring and yanked the entire stock market out of a slumber.
Rising bank stocks propelled indexes to their biggest one-day gain in six weeks Monday after influential banking analyst Meredith Whitney raised her rating on Goldman Sachs Group Inc. The bank reports earnings today. Whitney said also on CNBC that hard-hit Bank of America Corp. looks inexpensive given the assets on its books.
Her upbeat, albeit still cautious, tone on banks helped lift the Dow Jones industrial average 185 points in relatively thin trading volume. It was the best performance for the blue chips since June 1 and follows a month of often directionless trading in which investors looked for any fresh sign that the economy was improving, not simply licking its wounds.
Traders saw good news in banks as a sign other industries could be in better shape than analysts had estimated. Hundreds of earnings reports from the April-June quarter are due this week.
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Goldman has long been considered the strongest bank amid the economic downturn, but Bank of America has been one of the hardest hit by loan losses. Any improvement in banks' profits could shore up their financial position and free money for lending.
Investors latched on to Whitney's comments because she has for years offered one of the more pessimistic -- and accurate -- assessments of the banking business. While she remains cautious about the industry over all, the shift in tone gave the market a jolt.
Beyond Goldman, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase & Co., and Citigroup Inc. are all scheduled to report second-quarter results this week. Banks have taken some of the biggest blows among U.S. companies since the recession began in late 2007 as investment and loan losses mounted.
"There is a contingency of traders out there that believe the market can't recover without financials," said Randy Frederick, director of trading and derivatives at Charles Schwab.
Earnings reports will give investors a chance to see whether there was any meaningful economic improvement during the second quarter, and so far expectations are relatively low.