* Bank shares jump after Barclays news
* FASB proposes more leeway on mark-to-market accounting
* Dow and S&P 500 up 2 pct; Nasdaq up 0.3 pct
* For up-to-the-minute market news, click [STXNEWS/US] (Updates to midday, changes byline)
By Rodrigo Campos
NEW YORK, March 16 (Reuters) - The Dow industrials and the S&P 500 climbed on Monday as Barclays said it had a strong start for 2009, joining other major banks, and added it discussed selling one of its units.
The Nasdaq’s gains were limited, however, as some investors pulled money out of semiconductor and biotech shares to pour some funds into recently beaten-down financial stocks. An index of semiconductor stocks .SOXX fell 1.5 percent, with dominant chip maker Intel (INTC.O) down 1.6 percent at $14.47.
Banking shares got a lift after British bank Barclays Plc (BARC.L)(BCS.N) said it had a “strong start” to 2009, echoing comments last week by Bank of America Corp (BAC.N), JPMorgan (JPM.N) and Citigroup Inc (C.N) that they had been profitable in January and February. Barclays also confirmed it had discussed selling its iShares unit, in a move that could help it avoid giving a stake to the British government. For details see [ID:nLG360877]
Citi shares jumped nearly 40 percent to $2.46 while Bank of America gained 17 percent to $6.73 and JPMorgan added 4.5 percent to $24.83. The KBW bank index .BKX shot up 7 percent after last week’s advance of 37.4 percent.
In other positive news, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said during an interview on the CBS program “60 Minutes” on Sunday that the U.S. recession could probably come to an end this year and “we’ll see recovery beginning next year.” [ID:nLG112344]
“Barclays was reiterating what we got from Citi, Bank of America and JPMorgan last week in that their business looks good,” said Stephen Massocca, managing director at Wedbush Morgan in San Francisco.
“We got what was generally considered to be a great performance from Ben Bernanke on TV last night, and a combination of those two has got the market moving with financials leading the way.”
The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI shot up 143.36 points, or 1.98 percent, to 7,367.34. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index .SPX gained 15.47 points, or 2.04 percent, to 772.00. The Nasdaq Composite Index .IXIC rose 4.33 points, or 0.30 percent, to 1,434.83.
A positive close for the Dow industrials and the S&P 500 would mark a 5-day positive streak for both indexes, not seen since the last week of November 2008. That said, the S&P 500 is down around 15 percent in 2009 and close to 50 percent from highs reached in October 2007.
Financial stocks also gained support from news that the Financial Accounting Standards Board, which sets U.S. accounting rules, proposed to give more leeway on mark-to-market accounting rules. [ID:nN16511198]
Mark-to-market accounting has forced financial institutions to write down billions of dollars in assets.
On Nasdaq, shares of Apple(AAPL.O), the maker of the iPod and the iPhone, provided the top boost, with a gain of 1.1 percent to $96.98, followed by Microsoft (MSFT.O), up 1.3 percent at $16.86. Google (GOOG.O) was up 1.2 percent at $328.37.
In the biotech sector, Gilead Sciences (GILD.O) lost 1.8 percent to $44.63 on Nasdaq.
In economic news, a report showed that a gauge of New York State manufacturing activity hit a record low in March. [ID:nN16468118] (Editing by Jan Paschal)