Dow, S&P hit record highs

December 24, 2013

NEW YORK: US stocks climbed on Monday, with the Dow and SandP 500 advancing to all-time highs as a distribution deal by Apple Inc with China Mobile boosted the technology sector.

Apple rose 3.8 per cent to US$570.09, its biggest percentage gain in three months, after the tech titan said on Sunday it had signed a long-awaited agreement with China Mobile Ltd to sell iPhones through the world's biggest network of mobile phone users, a deal that could add billions of dollars to its revenue.

Apple's rally helped power the SandP technology sector index to a gain of 1.5 per cent, making it the best performer of the 10 major SandP sectors. The stock's massive market capitalization helped lift both the SandP 500 and the Nasdaq. US-listed shares of China Mobile rose 1.6 per cent to US$52.47.

"It is up nicely on this news, and it's not bad news. But I thought it was something people were kind of already aware of," said Stephen Massocca, managing director at Wedbush Equity Management LLC in San Francisco.

Volume was light, with about 4.68 billion shares traded on US exchanges, well below the 6.49 billion average so far this month, according to data from BATS Global Markets.

This week, volume is expected to be thin, with many market participants out for the Christmas holiday. Equity markets will close early on Tuesday and will be closed all of Wednesday. The light volume could amplify market volatility.

"I've got traders calling me up saying, 'You got anything going on? I've got nothing.' Everyone is looking for something that's moving. This is just the way it is when it comes to the Christmas holidays," said Michael Matousek, head trader at US Global Investors Inc in San Antonio, Texas.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 73.47 points or 0.45 per cent, to end at 16,294.61, a record high. The SandP 500 gained 9.67 points or 0.53 per cent, to finish at a record 1,827.99.

The Nasdaq Composite advanced 44.163 points or 1.08 per cent, to close at 4,148.903, its highest since August 2000.

The Dow also touched an all-time intraday high at 16,318.11, while the SandP 500 climbed to a record intraday high at 1,829.75.

Both the Nasdaq and the SandP 500 got a lift from Facebook Inc, which jumped 4.8 per cent to end at a record US$57.77, in the social networking company's first day of trading as an SandP 500 component. Facebook also set an all-time intraday high of US$58.32 during Monday's session.

The Dow's and the SandP 500's runs to all-time highs extended the market's sharp gains from last week, the strongest week for the major US stock indexes in months.

The rally was fueled by strong economic data and the US Federal Reserve's decision to begin trimming its stimulus programme next month, which removed a major source of uncertainty for the market. The Fed also said its key interest rate would stay at rock bottom longer than previously promised.

"Clearly what the Fed did was right down the sweet spot, and it was quite frankly what the market wanted to hear. But now it is in the market, and we have to wait for new events," Massocca said.

The SandP 500 has soared 28.2 per cent this year, largely due to the Fed's stimulus measures, and is on track for its best year since 1997.

The Dow has climbed 24.3 per cent in 2013, while the Nasdaq has jumped 37.4 per cent.

In the latest economic data, consumer sentiment hit a five-month high heading into the end of the year, and spending notched its strongest month since the summer, the latest signs of sustained vigor in the economy that are increasing hopes of a strong 2014.

Retail stocks will continue to garner attention in the final shopping days leading up to Christmas. In a sign that this season may be a difficult one for the sector, US consumers shopped less during the final weekend before Christmas despite deeper discounts, according to analytics firm RetailNext.

Target Corp may encounter particular trouble in the wake of a massive data breach. The Wall Street Journal reported that the retailer suffered reduced customer traffic over the weekend, which is one of the busiest of the year. Target's stock fell one per cent to US$61.88.

Advancing stocks outnumbered declining ones on the New York Stock Exchange by 2,165 to 883, while on the Nasdaq, 1,902 stocks rose and 722 shares declined.-- Reuters