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Stocks Rally as Stimulus Plans Stir Hope

Stocks continued to rally Monday as hopes for an auto bailout and action by world governments helped offset the grim reality of a fresh wave of layoffs.

Stocks were up about 3 percent, pushing the Dow Jones Industrial Average above 8,900 and the S&P 500 index above 900, as legislators continued to work with leaders of the Detroit auto makers to craft a deal. The move higher continues Friday's rally, when stocks shot up in the final hour of trading and the Dow gained 260 points, or 3.1 percent.

Traders said Friday was a turning point for this market: If stocks could shake off a loss of more than half a million jobsin one month, then much of this slump is already priced into the market.

"The market is basically shrugging off a lot of this bad news coming out," Matt Zeman, a trader at LaSalle Futures Group, said on CNBC this morning, adding that many people have largely discounted the next two quarters. "We could see a very powerful rally taking us higher in the short term."

Asian markets surged, with the Nikkei closing more than 5 percent higher, while European stocks were also soaring in morning trading.

General Motors chief Rick Wagoner is under pressure to resignas lawmakers work toward finalizing a bailout plan. A deal could be reached as early as today.

The plan, likely to be in the $15 billion range, is expected to include a Cabinet-level oversight board and a provision that the government could take the money back if the auto companies aren't taking sufficient steps to change the way they operate. The rescue funds would come from an existing loan program originally tageted at helping build fuel-efficient vehicles.

Ford shares rose more than 15 percent, while GM soared 20 percent.

The Swedish government is expected to offer loans and loan guarantees worth several billion Swedish crowns to Volvo Cars, owned by Ford, and Saab Automobile, owned by GM, a local newspaper reported, citing an unidentified source.

McDonald's reported its same-store sales jumped 7.7 percent in November, fueled by strong growth overseas, as well as solid growth in the U.S., where cash-strapped consumers are choosing fast-food chains over more expensive restaurants.

Today brought a fresh wave of layoffs.

Dow component 3M confirmed plans to slash 1,800 positionsfrom its payrolls and lowered its 2009 outlook.

Dow Chemical announced plans to close several facilities and cut 5,000 jobs, or 11 percent of its work force. This comes less than a week after rival DuPont announced cutbacks.

And, Swiss bank UBS , the world's largest wealth manager in terms of assets, may cut as many as 4,500 jobs, Swiss media are reporting.

Infrastructure stocks advanced after President-elect Obama began outlining his economic-recovery plan this weekend, announcing plans to create at least 2.5 million new jobs in the next few years and the largest U.S. infrastructure investment since the 1950s.

Aecom Technology , which has doubled in the past month or so, and Jacobs Engineering were both up about 10 percent.

Metals stocks were also higher: Alcoa was the biggest gainer on the Dow, up more than 15 percent. U.S. Steel and Freeport-Mcmoran were up nearly 20 percent.

On Sunday, Obama said he would put strong financial regulation at the center of his economic recovery program to force more accountability in the banking industry.

Layoffs are expected to continue in the financial sector, draining millions of tax dollars from states' coffers and swelling the ranks of the unemployed.

Meanwhile, Merrill Lynch Chief Executive John Thain has suggested to directors that he get a 2008 bonus of as much as $10 million, because, by merging with Bank of America, he helped avert what could have been a much larger crisis at the investment bank, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Genworth Financial was the biggest gainer on the S&P 500, up more than 50 percent, after a group working for state regulators agreed to lower capital-reserve requirements for insurers, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

Other insurers also advanced, with Hartford Financial and Prudential up sharply.

Barack Obama wasn't the only one hammering out stimulus measures: European leaders met with business leaders in London ahead of an EU summit later this week, where they will discuss a 200 billion euro ($250 billion) spending plan. And Chinese leaders gathered for a three-day conference to create a new stimulus planto keep annual growth at 8 percent or higher, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

In the aerospace sector, JP Morgan Securities cut its price target of Dow component Boeing to $42 from $46 on concerns over the further delay of the 787 Dreamliner and damage from a two-month machinists strike.

The gloomy outlook also caused JP Morgan to cut targets for two of Boeing's suppliers, Precision Castparts and Rockwell Collins.

In a sign the financial crisis is spreading to the media sector, publisher and broadcaster Tribune is preparing for a possible bankruptcy-protection filing as soon as this week, according to the paper.

The New York Times is planning to borrow $225 million against its mid-Manhattan headquarters building, to ease a potential cash-flow squeeze, the New York Times reported on its Web site.

And elsewhere in corporate news, Christie Heffner said she will resign as chairman and CEO of Playboy Enterprises, where shares have plunged 82 percent in the past year.