Markets Start 2009 With Upward Bump

Instead of a lackluster lull after the New Year’s holiday, investors decided to buy equities on Friday, driving the Dow Jones index up 258 points, or nearly 3 percent. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq were up even more, in terms of percentage: 3.16 percent and 3.5 percent respectively. GM, which recently won a short financial reprieve, led the way by gaining more than 14 percent, though that represented only 45 cents a share. Investors seemed to be largely undeterred by the woeful numbers from the Institute for Supply Management. Or it could be that investors are now inured to bad numbers, and are shopping for post-holiday bargains the way consumers used to seek them in retail stores. In any case, manufacturing activity in the United States has fallen to its lowest level since the summer of 1980, according to the ISM, whose manufacturing index dropped to 32.4 percent in December. In November, the index stood at 36.2 percent. In commercial real estate, Real Capital Analytics is estimating that major office property transactions will total $53 billion to $55 billion for the entirety of 2008, compared with $207.2 billion during all of 2007, a year that’s looking more and more like a high-water mark for the industry for a foreseeable future. In 2009, few expect improvements in either transaction volume, or in office leasing rates or rental rates that favor property owners.