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U.S. Stocks Extend Financial-led Rally

NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- U.S. stocks rallied Tuesday, extending gains into a second day, after a measure of manufacturing activity proved brighter than expected, and separate offerings of fresh equity from Wall Street's Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. and Swiss bank UBS AG drew a warm reception.

"It looks like a financial-led rally, some of it based on Lehman raising capital; the thought being, if you can raise the capital and take care of things, it takes off the table the collapse worries," said Bill Stone, chief investment strategist at PNC Wealth Management.

And, early economic data fostered the sentiment of "Hey, we're not falling through the floor on economic data," said Stone, who added, "you'll probably continue to see weak economic data, but that doesn't necessarily doom you to poor stock market returns."

Rallying more than 100 points early on, the Dow Jones Industrial Average added to its gains in the wake of U.S. economic data that showed the Institute for Supply Management's index inching up to 48.6% in March from 48.3% in February.

The reading topped the forecasts of analysts polled by MarketWatch, who had expected the index to slip to 47.0%. .

"Healthy demand abroad has boosted exports of manufactured goods, offsetting some of the strain from weak domestic demand," said Michelle Meyer, a Lehman Brothers economist.

Separately, the Commerce Department reported U.S. construction spending fell 0.3% in February, less than the 1% drop predicted by economists.

The Dow industrials were recently up 282.37 points to 12,545.26, with all 30 components posting gains. Shares of Citigroup Inc. led the way, up 8.6%.

The S&P 500 added 30.92 points to 1,353.62, while the Nasdaq Composite advanced 55.90 points to 2,335.00.

Volume on the New York Stock Exchange neared 1.9 billion shares, with five stocks gaining for every issue on the decline. On the Nasdaq, 832 million shares were exchanged, and advancers topped decliners nearly 2 to 1.

Crude turns

On the New York Mercantile Exchange, crude-oil futures reversed earlier losses, recently up 21 cents to $101.79 a barrel, while gold futures dropped below $900 an ounce, recently off $33.40 to $882.80 an ounce. .

Gains in the dollar helped undercut commodities prices. The dollar index, which measures the greenback against a basket of currencies, was at 72.49, up from 71.749 late Monday.

A big positive behind the impressive gains on Wall Street is the favorable reception to Lehman's offering. "It's three times oversubscribed; people are interested in investing in Lehman," said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Jefferies & Co.

Shares of Lehman added 12% after the company announced plans to offer $4 billion in convertible preferred shares.

UBS shares gained 11.5% after the company disclosed $19 billion in new write-downs and said it would issue another $15 billion in shares.

Germany's Deutsche Bank reported a $3.9 billion write-off, mostly on leveraged loans, commercial real estate and Alt-A exposures.

"It's not just a U.S. problem, it's the European banks' turn to say, 'Yeah, we had a little exposure there too,'" said Hogan, who also pointed to an index showing confidence among Japanese manufacturers at a four-year low as putting U.S. economic woes in perspective.

Later Tuesday, U.S. automakers are due to report their monthly sales figures, with seeing a 13% drop in March sales. Chrysler, owned by Cerberus Capital Management and Daimler, is expected to post the worst figures of the Big Three.

Overseas, European shares started off the second quarter strongly, largely on gains from financials including UBS. .

U.S. stocks on Monday finished the worst quarter in nearly five years with a solid advance.

By Kate Gibson

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