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Stock rally on hopes that finance officials may move to contain Europe's debt crisis


In this Sept. 12, 2011 photo, a trader with JNK Securities works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.


NEW YORK — Stocks rallied Monday as investors bet that European finance ministers would take action soon to prop up the region's unstable economies.

European officials pledged over the weekend to take bolder steps to fight Europe's debt problems, which threaten to slow the global economy. The finance ministers offered few specifics about their next steps, but markets are sensitive to every piece of news coming out of the region.

"Perhaps it's just the fact that the talks didn't break down," said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at Harris Private Bank.

European leaders have not been able to agree on the next steps they will take. German leaders want banks and private institutions that hold Greek bonds to take a bigger loss on those holdings to reduce Greece's debt burden.

European officials have also talked about increasing the size of Europe's $595 billion rescue fund by allowing it to take loans from the European Central Bank.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 100 points, or 0.9 percent, to 10,873 at 1:45 Eastern time. It had been up as much as 180 points.

The Standard&Poor's 500 rose 4, or 0.4 percent, to 1,140. The Nasdaq composite fell 21, or 0.9 percent, to 2,461.

Financial stocks in the S&P 500 rose more than any other industry group in the index.

Berkshire Hathaway's Class B shares rose 6.3 percent, the most of any stock in the S&P 500, after the company announced a plan to repurchase stock for the first since 1965. Buffet is famous for investing with the goal of good long-term returns.

"It should serve to remind investors that investing is a long-term pursuit," said Ablin. "Buffet is as good an indicator for long-term investing as any."

Investors have been on edge about Europe's debt problems for months. The Dow fell 6.4 percent last week, its biggest drop since the week ended Oct. 10, 2008 at the height of the financial crisis.

Greece is at risk of defaulting on its debt next month if it does not receive the next installment of a bailout package. If that happens, banks that hold Greek bonds would lose money. Analysts also worry that the economies in Europe and the U.S. could slip into another recession.

News that sales of new homes in the U.S. fell to a six-month low briefly sent indexes lower in morning trading, but by midday Eastern the Dow and S&P were higher.

The government reported that new home sales fell for the fourth straight month in August. The decline is the latest of many signs that the weak housing market is holding back the U.S. economy.

Boeing Co. rose 3.9 percent after the company delivered its first 787 aircraft to Japan's All Nippon Airways. An analyst said the company's earnings should rise for the next few years if the company is able to maintain steady production.

Clorox Co. fell 4.8 percent after Carl Icahn withdrew his slate of directors. That suggested the activist investor was unable to find a buyer for the consumer products company.

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