US stocks close in on record highs; Nasdaq goes above 9,000 for the first time

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Stocks moved broadly higher Thursday, nudging the major indexes further into record territory.

Technology stocks accounted for a big slice of the gains, which helped push the Nasdaq composite above the 9,000 mark for the first time. The index, which is heavily weighted with tech stocks, is on track to extend its winning streak to 11 days.

Amazon and other retailers climbed after data showed a last-minute surge in online shopping helped holiday sales.

“That’s just a confirmation that the consumer is incredibly strong and resilient and helping to power the economy to better numbers,” said Jeff Kravetz, regional investment director for U.S. Bank Wealth Management.

Energy stocks rose as crude oil prices headed higher. Health care and industrial stocks lagged the market.

Trading was lighter than usual as U.S. markets reopened after the Christmas holiday.

The benchmark S&P 500 index has finished with a weekly gain in 10 out of the past 11 weeks and is headed for its biggest annual gain since 2013 at 29%.

Rising optimism around a “Phase 1” trade deal announced earlier this month between the United States and China helped put investors in a buying mood in recent weeks. Fears about a possible recession have also faded since the summer after the Federal Reserve cut interest rates three times, and the central bank appears set to keep them low for a long time.

Still, as traders turn their attention to 2020, fears about the outlook for the global economy remain, as do concerns over unresolved trade issues between Washington and Beijing. Next year also has the added complication of the U.S. presidential election.

“Trade will continue to be a factor that drives short-term market volatility,” Kravetz said. “But if you look at the other factors, the more fundamental economic factors — consumer and business sentiment — those are the ones which are really keeping investors in the game and more confident.”

KEEPING SCORE: The S&P 500 was up 0.3% as of 1:52 p.m. Eastern time. The index last hit a record high on Monday.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 55 points, or 0.2%, to 28,570. The Nasdaq composite added 0.6% , while the Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks slipped 0.1%.

The indexes are coming off a mixed finish in shortened, pre-Christmas trading on Tuesday.

THE FINAL FIVE: The last five days of December and the first two in the new year have historically been a positive period for the market.

Stocks have brought an average gain of 1.3% over that stretch since 1950, according to the Stock Trader’s Almanac.

RETAIL RALLY: A report from Mastercard SpendingPulse showed holiday retail sales rose 3.4%, with online shopping rising 18.8%.

Amazon was the biggest gainer in the S&P 500, climbing 4%. Macy’s rose 1.8% and Nordstrom added 1.2%.

TECH LEADS THE WAY: Technology stocks continued to add to their blockbuster gains Thursday. The sector is on pace to end the year with a 48% gain, well above the other 10 sectors in the S&P 500. Apple was up 1.5% and Western Digital rose 1%.

THANKS, UNCLE SAM: Immunomedics climbed 6.6% after the biopharmaceutical company said that the FDA accepted its application for accelerated approval of a breast-cancer therapy.

BOND YIELDS: Bond prices rose. The 10-year Treasury yield slipped to 1.89% from 1.90% late Tuesday. The yield is a benchmark for the interest rates that lenders charge on mortgages and other consumer loans.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude gained 56 cents to $61.67 per barrel. Brent crude oil, the international standard, picked up 52 cents to $66.68 per barrel.

The rise in oil prices helped lift energy sector stocks. Occidental Petroleum gained 1.2%.

GOLD RUSH: Shares in mining companies rose along with the price of gold, which climbed $9.60 to $1,514.40 per ounce.

Newmont Goldcorp added 0.9%, while Freeport-McMoRan gained 0.7%.

MARKETS OVERSEAS: Markets in Europe, Hong Kong and Australia remained closed. Elsewhere in Asia, Japan’s Nikkei 225 index advanced 0.6% to 23,924.92, while the Kospi in South Korea gained 0.4% to 2,197.93. India’s Sensex lost 0.3% to 41,339.87. In Southeast Asia, benchmarks were mixed, while Taiwan was flat.

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