Better-than-expected results at Ford lift stocks

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Investors set aside some of their worries about the economy Friday after Ford Motor Co. posted better-than-expected results for the first three months of the year.

The loss at the nation’s second-largest automaker was less than expected and the company burned through far less cash during the quarter than in the fourth quarter. The stock jumped 15 percent.

The welcome news from Ford comes as investors wait for details on the methodology for the “stress tests” that regulators have given to 19 of the largest U.S. financial institutions. Federal regulators on Friday will privately begin telling the nation’s 19 largest financial institutions how well they performed.

The release of the methods could signal which banks might be in trouble and could lead to volatile trading as investors make their assesments. The results of the stress tests won’t be publicly released until May 4.

In midmorning trading, the Dow Jones industrial average rose 59.41, or 0.8 percent, to 8,016.47.

Broader stock indicators also rose. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 6.00, or 0.7 percent, to 857.92, and the Nasdaq composite index rose 10.11, or 0.6 percent, to 1,662.32.

Home builder stocks rose after the government reported that sales of new homes slipped last month but still topped expectations. Investors were encouraged as builders start to see encouraging signs about the housing market.

New home sales fell 0.6 percent in March to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 356,000 from an upwardly revised February rate of 358,000.

March’s results exceeded the expectations of economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters who expected a sales pace of 340,000 units.

Pulte Homes Inc. rose 25 cents, or 2.2 percent, to $11.42, while Lennar Corp. rose $1.12, or 12.9 percent, to $9.79.

The government also reported that demand for big-ticket manufactured items fell less than expected in March. Orders to U.S. factories for durable goods — those expected to last at least three years — fell by 0.8 percent last month, less than the 1.5 percent decline that economists had been expecting. The report fanned some hopes that a slide in manufacturing is starting to bottom out.

In earnings news, Ford rose 68 cents, or 15.1 percent, to $5.17 after reporting that it spent $3.7 billion more than it brought in during the quarter. That amount is far less than the $7.2 billion the company burned through in the fourth quarter.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.