Dow gains 286 points in its best day so far this year

NEW YORK – The Dow Jones industrial average surged 286 points Wednesday, its best day this year.

The rally started early and gathered force in the afternoon. The charge turned the Dow positive for 2012 and erased the biggest loss of the year less than a week after it happened: the 275-point plunge set off by a dismal U.S. jobs report on Friday.

The Dow gained 2.4 percent to close at 12,414.79.

The big jump follows weeks of losses. Hope that European officials would find ways to ease the region’s debt crisis helped launch the rally. News reports said Germany and European Union officials were considering a plan to lend money from the European bailout fund to help rescue Spain’s hobbled banks.

Jeff Kleintop, chief market strategist at LPL Financial, said the market appeared to be turning on rumors and speculation. But the chatter was enough to convince some traders that the worst was over for now.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 rose 29.63 points to 1,315.13. The Nasdaq composite rose 66.61 points to 2,844.72. 

France lowers retirement age to 60 for some workers

PARIS – France’s new Socialist government moved Wednesday to lower the retirement age from 62 to 60 years old for certain workers, bucking a global trend in a gesture to unions that critics say is a costly mistake.

Governments from North America to Europe have been pushing retirement ages higher and higher in recent decades, as people live longer and spend more years on state-sponsored pension checks.

New French President Francois Hollande, who won election last month on a wave of voter anger at austerity measures, proved Wednesday that his leftist campaign rhetoric was not just bluster.

Raising France’s legal retirement age was one of conservative former President Nicolas Sarkozy’s key reforms, aimed at reducing heavy government debts as Europe sunk into a continent-wide financial crisis. The reform met huge nationwide protests — yet many economists said it didn’t push the retirement age high enough.

The minimum retirement age went from 60 to 62, and the age to receive a full pension regardless of how many years you pay into the system went from 65 to 67. 

Spanish ‘Huffington Post’ set to launch in Madrid

MADRID – Arianna Huffington — in Madrid for the launch of “El Huffington Post” — says the news website’s Spanish version is poised for success because Spanish speakers form an incredible global community.

The co-founder of the famous website told The Associated Press on Wednesday that despite the crisis in global news outlets, journalism is enjoying a golden age thanks to new technologies.

Huffington said the website will focus on news from Spain but also include stories and commentary from the rest of the Spanish-speaking world — about 350 million people.

Huffington said the website already has a version aimed at U.S. Hispanics and is considering launching other country-specific sites in Latin America.