The stock market rose Friday to cap its best week since November, as scattered bits of good news from shopping malls to metals markets gave some reason to believe that the economy may be getting closer to a bottom.
Consumers are still cutting back, but not as steeply as they were, data showed this week. Many retailers have reduced inventories on their shelves to the point that any pickup in demand will force them to restock. Prices for copper and scrap steel are rising, a hint that manufacturers are buying again. Oil prices are up 23% in the past four weeks, a sign demand may be firming. Shipping rates, sensitive to goods moving across the oceans, turned up even as governments reported declining world trade for January. Most visibly, the stock market is up -- at least for now.
The rise in the stock market, even if it isn't always a reliable predictor of the direction of the economy, could offer a sorely needed boost to confidence.