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Today S Markets
U.S. Stocks Edge Higher
From the Wall Street Journal of Wed, 24 Dec 2014 11:15:46 EST

U.S. stocks gained for a sixth straight session Wednesday, continuing a rally sparked by the Federal Reserve’s reiteration last week that it would be patient about raising interest rates.

New York City Ballet dancers from this year's production of The Nutcracker visit the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday.
New York City Ballet dancers from this year's production of The Nutcracker visit the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday. Getty Images

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 49 points, or 0.3%, to 18073, hitting a new intraday record. The S&P 500 added 3.5 points, or 0.2%, to 2086 and the Nasdaq Composite gained 19 points, or 0.4%, to 4785.

Traders said volumes were low and that most fund managers who needed to adjust their stock portfolios before the end of the year had already done so. Absent negative headlines, they said they expected stocks to keep climbing in the shortened holiday trading session.

“It feels like this market has enough muscle to it to continue to trend higher,” said Jonathan Corpina, senior managing partner at brokerage firm Meridian Equity Partners.

Trading will end at 1 p.m. Eastern Wednesday, and the U.S. stock market will be closed Thursday for Christmas. Volume has been declining ahead of the holiday, with about 5.7 billion shares trading Tuesday, the lowest since Nov. 28.

Earlier Wednesday the Labor Department said jobless claims fell by 9,000 to 280,000 in the week ended Dec. 20. Economists polled by The Wall Street Journal had expected 290,000 new claims.

Michael Scanlon, managing director at John Hancock Asset Management, said the jobless-claims data provided another confirmation that the U.S. is moving closer to seeing some wage inflation. “This sort of robust, sustainable, well-supported recovery of the consumer is what people have been looking for, and it should drive equity prices higher,” he said.

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The Dow pushed above 18000 for the first time Tuesday, boosted by data showing the U.S. economy expanded at a 5% seasonally adjusted annual rate in the third quarter, marking its strongest growth in more than a decade. The Dow rose 0.4% to 18024.17, notching its 36th record in 2014. The S&P also hit a record, its 51st this year, with a gain of 0.2% to 2082.17. The Nasdaq Composite fell 0.3% to 4765.42.

The Federal Reserve’s assurance that it will be patient in deciding when to raise interest rates has boosted the Dow by 955.30 points, or 5.6%, in the five trading days through Tuesday. That is the largest five-day point gain since November 2008 and the biggest percentage gain since December 2011. For the year, the Dow has gained 8.7% and the S&P 500 is up nearly 13%. With the backdrop of an improving U.S. economy, some investors say the bull run has more room to run.

“From a fundamental perspective, the U.S. still looks much stronger than other markets,” said Monica DiCenso, U.S. head of equity strategy at J.P. Morgan Private Bank. “The underpinnings are there for a grind higher,” she added, referring to upbeat earnings, strong GDP growth and consumer confidence.

European trading was light on Wednesday ahead of the holiday. The U.K.’s FTSE 100 rose 0.2%, while France’s CAC 40 fell 0.4%.

A decline in oil prices weighed on shares of energy companies. Crude-oil futures fell 2.7% to $55.59 a barrel. Shares of Exxon Mobil Corp. declined 1.6% and shares of Chevron Corp. fell 1.2%. Energy companies in the S&P 500 shed 1.6%, making it the worst performing sector in the index.

In other markets, gold futures fell 0.3% to $1174.00 an ounce. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.290% from 2.257% on Tuesday.

In corporate news, American Realty Capital Properties Inc. said Wednesday that it has received an additional waiver from lenders, as well as an extension for reporting its third-quarter and full-year results for 2014, as the real-estate investment trust continues to deal with the fallout from the revelation of accounting irregularities. Shares of the real estate investment trust fell 2.5%.

Danish drug maker Novo Nordisk A/S’s injectable diabetes drug has been approved in the U.S. to fight obesity, the Food and Drug Administration said late Tuesday. Shares rose 2.4%.

CalAmp Corp. shares fell 10% after the company, whose products include tracking devices, cellular routers, private radios and fleet-management software, projected revenue below Wall Street estimates for the current quarter.

Write to Saumya Vaishampayan at saumya.vaishampayan@wsj.com



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