US Stock Indexes Hit More Records

(AP) -- Wall Street capped a milestone-setting week Friday with a few more as modest gains nudged the major stock indexes to all-time highs.

The benchmark S&P 500 index also notched its second-straight weekly gain.

Technology stocks powered much of the market's broad gains, along with communication services companies and banks. Energy sector stocks were the only decliners. Bond prices fell, sending yields higher.

Investors welcomed more strong quarterly results from banks. A report showing a December surge in new home construction, meanwhile, provided the latest encouraging snapshot on the U.S. economy. A solid retail sales report on Thursday revealed consumers are still spending at a healthy pace.

The latest batch of positive corporate earnings reports and ecomonic data helped keep investors in a buying mood after the midweek signing of an initial trade deal by the U.S. and China. Progress on trade has eased fears on Wall Street about the potential for the dispute to escalate further.

"The markets have responded really to one thing and that's trade headlines, and that continues," said Nela Richardson, investment strategist at Edward Jones. "But the economic data that underlies some of that momentum, not all of it, is pretty persistent. The fact that we're seeing housing solidly make a corner turn into health is good for 2020."

The S&P 500 index rose 12.81 points, or 0.4%, to 3,329.62. The benchmark index also set all-time highs on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 50.46 points, or 0.2%, to 29,348.10. The Nasdaq added 31.81 points, or 0.3%, to 9,388.94.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks dropped 5.58 points, or 0.3%, to 1,699.64.

Markets in Europe and Asia finished higher.

Bond prices fell, pushing yields higher. The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 1.82% from 1.8% late Thursday.

Financial markets are solidly higher just a few weeks into 2020 as trade disputes quiet down and the economic picture remains bright.

The S&P 500 is up 3.1% so far this year and technology stocks are once again leading the way with a gain of 5.9%. The index finished 2019 with a sharp 28.9% gain on a surge from the technology sector.

This week's signing of a "Phase 1" trade deal has raised hopes on Wall Street that China and the U.S. will avoid any further escalations as they continue talking. U.S. election concerns and the ongoing impeachment of President Donald Trump have been both largely ignored by Wall Street, so far.

Still, the possibility that U.S. trade tensions could heat up again, whether against China or the European Union, and the U.S. presidential election, could result in heightened volatility for stocks this year, Richardson said.

"It's likely that we'll see some dips and volatility in the market," Richardson said. "When those occur in the context of solid economic fundamentals and earnings growth, what we're telling our clients is to buy that dip, because we think share prices will rebound, but we do think the path forward for share prices is rocky this year."

Chipmaker Qualcomm led technology sector stocks higher Friday, climbing 4.5%.

Communications companies also rose. Google parent company Alphabet rose 2% a day after becoming the latest tech giant to cross the $1 trillion valuation mark, joining Apple and Microsoft. Comcast gained 1.3% after its NBCUniversal unit launched a video streaming service, Peacock.

Citizens Financial led financial sector stocks higher, rising 3.2%. State Street rose 1.8%.

Several homebuilders rose after the Commerce Department said that construction of new homes surged in December to the highest level in 13 years. The strong finish caps a year in which falling mortgage rates and a strong labor market helped lift the prospects of the housing industry. Hovnanian Enterprises led builders higher, climbing 2.5%.

Gap fell 0.4% after the retailer cancelled plans to spin off its Old Navy brand, saying the move would be too costly. It also said the president and CEO of the Gap brand, Neil Fiske, is stepping down.

Major shipping companies struggled in the fourth quarter because of costs and restrictions tied to the ongoing U.S.-China trade war and slower global economic growth.

Expeditors International of Washington fell 5.6% after the company warned investors about a weak fourth quarter. JB Hunt Transport Services dropped 4.2% after reporting disappointing fourth-quarter profits.

Investors bid shares in Tailored Brands 4.2% higher on news the owner of Men's Wearhouse is selling its Joseph Abboud trademarks to WHP Global for $115 million.

Benchmark crude oil rose 2 cents to settle at $58.54 a barrel. Brent crude oil, the international standard, gained 23 cents to close at $64.85 a barrel. Wholesale gasoline fell 1 cent to $1.64 per gallon. Heating oil declined 1 cent to $1.86 per gallon. Natural gas fell 7 cents to $2.00 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Gold rose $9.80 to $1,558.80 per ounce, silver rose 13 cents to $18.01 per ounce and copper was unchanged at 2.85 per pound.

The dollar rose to 110.14 Japanese yen from 110.13 yen on Thursday. The euro weakened to $1.1093 from $1.1135.

U.S. stock markets will be closed on Monday in observance of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

(CZ)