Romney rally? Stocks close higher one day after debate

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed the day up 80 points. The NASDAQ and S&P 500 stock indices showed similar gains. The gains on the blue-chip index came after it had trimmed gains over the three days prior to the Wednesday night debate.

The relatively strong day for the market came in the face of data that would seem to weigh on stocks, just one day before a highly anticipated monthly jobs report.

The Labor Department reported Thursday that initial claims of unemployment benefits rose slightly in the last week. And the Commerce Department reported that factory orders in August suffered their greatest decline since the recession. However, both of those reports actually came in better than economists had expected.

Financial stocks jumped Thursday, after President Obama and Romney spent some of the debate sparring over the Dodd-Frank financial reform law, which Romney described as excessive. The stocks of JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America were up 2.35 and 3.29 percent, respectively.

Another area in particular that seemed to be surging on Romney's comments was the coal industry.

Alpha Natural Resources, which last month blamed new Environmental Protection Agency rules and low natural gas prices for its decision to close eight mines and lay off 1,200 workers, experienced a 6.8 percent jump.

Kuni Chen, of CRT Capital Group, told The Hill that the coal stock boost reflected Romney’s “strong debate performance” and a feeling that the GOP candidate revived his chances of winning the presidency.

The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, an industry trade group, attributed stock spikes to the debate.

“Romney’s strong performance last night included a strong endorsement for coal and clean coal technology.  As a result, Wall Street has reacted positively,” Lisa Miller, the group’s spokeswoman, told The Hill on Thursday.

Though industry and the investment community knew of Romney’s support for coal, his comments to a captive national audience likely helped move the markets. It “helps spread [the] message to [a] much larger base. Yes, that is a driver of jump in stocks,” Chen said in an email.

Romney, who said during the debate, “I like coal,” and told President Obama that, “People in the coal industry feel like it's getting crushed by your policies,” has long tried to contrast his opinion of the industry with the president's.

He has often talked about his support for the coal industry in swing states such as Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia. He and other Republicans have criticized Obama for regulations that they say target the coal industry.

The stock market wasn't the only market feeding from last night's debate. The prediction market InTrade had shown a skyrocketing number of bets on Obama winning a second term over the last several weeks, as the incumbent gained in the polls and doubts mounted about Romney's competitive chances. But the value of an Obama second term fell precipitously overnight. The president's odds had just reached an all-time high at the end of September of about 79 percent, but by Thursday afternoon had fallen to 68 percent.

Bettors instead flocked to Romney after the debate. The GOP challenger had been hammered on the prediction market in recent weeks, as a steep decline took his odds of winning to nearly 20 percent. One strong debate performance later, Romney was being given a roughly 33 percent chance of winning.