S&P 500 Climbs to Record Amid GDP Growth, Optimism Over Europe

Bloomberg NewsMarch 29, 2013 

NEW YORK -- The Standard & Poor's 500 index on Thursday rose to a record, wiping out losses from the financial crisis, as economic growth slowed less than previously estimated and concern about Europe's debt crisis eased.

Hewlett-Packard and International Business Machines each jumped 1.1 percent to pace advances among the biggest companies. GameStop rallied 5.8 percent after profit topped estimates. Deckers Outdoor increased 6 percent after Jefferies Group raised its price target. BlackBerry fell 0.8 percent after reporting fourth-quarter results.

The S&P 500 increased 0.4 percent to 1,569.19, above its closing high of 1,565.15 from Oct. 9, 2007. The Dow Jones industrial average climbed 52.38 points, or 0.4 percent, to 14,578.54, reaching another record. About 5.7 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges, 9.4 percent below the three-month average. U.S. markets will be closed Friday for a holiday.

The S&P 500's advance above its record close marks a recovery from a bear market that wiped out more than $10 trillion of value from the world's largest stock market. The gauge rose 10 percent for the quarter, its best performance in a year. It remains below an all-time intraday high of 1,576.09. The Dow first surpassed its 2007 high on March 5.

Shares of American companies are rallying as their

profits expand for a third straight year and the Federal Reserve commits to continuing its unprecedented monetary stimulus. Reports this week showing a 5.7 percent jump in durable goods orders and the biggest increase since 2006 for the S&P/Case-Shiller index of home prices in 20 cities were among the latest data points to fuel optimism in the economy.

Gains on Thursday came as gross domestic product rose at a 0.4 percent annual rate in the last three months of 2012, up from a 0.1 percent prior estimate and following a 3.1 percent pace in the third quarter, revised Commerce Department figures showed today. The reopening of banks in Cyprus after being closed since March 16 eased concern about Europe's debt crisis. German retail sales, adjusted for inflation and seasonal swings, gained 0.4 percent last month from January.

The four-year bull market has sent the S&P 500 up more than 131 percent since it reached a 12-year low of 676.53. The rally is extending beyond the average length of bull markets, according to Birinyi Associates data that show cycles since 1962 have an average duration of four years. Of nine advances, four have lasted longer than the mean and the market rose for about six years during those periods.

Shares of retailers, restaurant chains and other companies that depend on discretionary consumer spending jumped more than 233 percent as a group since the bottom of the bear market to lead gains among the 10 main groups in the S&P 500. Gauges of financial and industrial companies have almost tripled, while technology, commodity and health-care stocks are up more than 100 percent.

Wyndham Worldwide, CBS, Fifth Third Bancorp and Gannett are among six companies in the index that have surged more than 1,000 percent since March 9, 2009.

The rebound in stocks came as the Fed pumped more than $2.3 trillion into the economy through monetary easing since 2008, sending Treasury yields to record lows last year. The S&P 500's dividend yield, currently at about 2.1 percent, has been above the rate on 10-year Treasuries for almost a year.

Corporate profits have jumped to a record during the rebound, with earnings-per-share for S&P 500 companies projected to reach $110.51 this year from less than $62 in 2009, according to analyst forecasts compiled by Bloomberg. Alcoa will unofficially kick off the next reporting season when it posts first-quarter results on April 8.

The average year-end prediction of 17 Wall Street strategists surveyed by Bloomberg is for the S&P 500 to keep rising to 1,583. The gauge's advance during the rally exceeds the average bull-market return of 120 percent, Birinyi data show. Two of the last nine cycles have rallied more than Thursday's advance -- the 302 percent gain in the 1990s and 229 percent in the 1980s, the data show.

The Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index, which measures the cost of using options as insurance against claims, fell 3.4 percent to 12.70 on Thursday. The gauge, known as the VIX, dropped to its lowest level since February 2007 on March 11 and has retreated 30 percent this year.

Hewlett-Packard gained 1.1 percent to $23.84 and IBM added 1.1 percent to $213.30 to pace advances among the largest companies.

EBay rallied 4.1 percent to $54.22. The operator of the world's largest online marketplace said it expects to have merchandise volume of $110 billion by 2015 as its active user base expands to 200 million, aided by emerging markets.

GameStop rallied 5.8 percent to $27.97. The world's largest video-game retailer reported fourth-quarter profit that beat analysts' estimates, led by digital and mobile products.

Deckers surged 6 percent to $55.69. Jefferies analyst Randal Konik raised his price target on the Ugg brand owner to $100 from a previous estimate of $65, noting the likelihood of sheepskin prices falling this year.

BlackBerry, formerly known as Research In Motion, fell 0.8 percent to $14.45, reversing an earlier rally of 6.8 percent. The company, which is attempting a comeback with a new lineup of smartphones, reported a surprise profit in the fourth quarter after embarking on a cost-cutting program last year, even as sales continued to trail projections.

An S&P index of homebuilders retreated 0.7 percent, as 10 of 11 members fell. Toll Brothers slid 1.4 percent to $34.24, while Lennar lost 0.7 percent to $41.48.

PVH dropped 5.3 percent to $106.81. The owner of the Tommy Hilfiger brand said earnings will be $7 a share for the year, less than the average analyst estimate of $7.41 a share.

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