S&P 500 closes above 1,700 for first time

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks roared back to record highs on Thursday, driven by good news on the economy.

The Standard & Poor’s 500, the Dow Jones industrial average and the Russell 2000 index set all-time highs. The S&P broke through 1,700 points for the first time. The Nasdaq hit its highest level since September 2000.

The gains were driven by a steady flow of encouraging reports on the global economy.

Overnight, a positive read on China’s manufacturing helped shore up Asian markets. An hour before U.S. trading started, the government reported that the number of people applying for unemployment benefits last week fell sharply. At mid-morning, a trade group said U.S. factories revved up production last month. And while corporate earnings news after the market closed Wednesday and throughout Thursday brought both winners and losers, investors were able to find enough reports that they liked, including those from CBS, MetLife and Yelp.

Overall, analysts said, the news was good but not overwhelmingly so. Enough to suggest that the economy is improving, but not enough to prompt the Federal Reserve to withdraw its economic stimulus programs.

It’s becoming a familiar template this year. Stock indexes have been setting record highs since April even while the underlying economy is often described as improving, but hardly going gangbusters.

Because the stock market often looks ahead 6-9 months, it’s not unusual for stock indexes to be ahead of economic indicators, when the economy is improving or worsening. Right now, stock investors may be anticipating a stronger economy and better earnings next year.

Among Thursday’s stock index records: The S&P 500 index rose 21.14 points, or 1.3 percent, to 1,706.87. The Dow rose 128.48 points, or 0.8 percent, to 15,628.02. The Russell 2000 index of small-company stocks rose 14.62 points, or 1.4 percent, to 1,059.88.

The Nasdaq composite index rose 49.37 points, or 1.4 percent, to 3,675.74, in line with the daily gains of other indexes but still far short of its record. The Nasdaq, which is heavily weighted with technology stocks, briefly veered above 5,000 points in March 2000, just before the Internet bubble burst.

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