Dow average climbs to record, poised for best year since 1996

Bloomberg NewsDecember 30, 2013 

NEW YORK -- The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose, reaching an all-time closing high and headed toward its biggest annual gain since 1996, as Walt Disney led a rally in consumer shares.

Walt Disney jumped 2.5 percent, the most in the Dow and the Standard & Poor's 500 Index, after an analyst upgrade. Crocs rose 21 percent after saying its chief executive officer will retire and Blackstone Group will invest $200 million in convertible preferred stock in the maker of colorful plastic clogs. Twitter fell 5.1 percent, extending losses after a 13 percent drop on Friday. Facebook declined 3.1 percent, retreating for the third straight trading session.

The S&P 500 fell less than 1 point to 1,841.07 at 4 p.m. in New York. The benchmark index is poised for a 29 percent increase this year, its biggest annual gain since 1997. The Dow rose 25.88 points, or 0.2 percent, to 16,504.29 on Monday, extending its rally for the year to 26 percent. About 4.4 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges, 28 percent below the three- month

average.

"It's a slow market right now without any dramatic news and I don't see much happening between now and trading through the close tomorrow," John Carey, a fund manager at Pioneer Investment Management, which oversees about $220 billion, said in a telephone interview. "Then we're off to the races in the new year."

The S&P 500 has gained 2 percent in December, heading for its fourth straight monthly advance. The gauge climbed 3.7 percent from Dec. 13 through Dec. 27, its biggest two-week rally since July, as the Federal Reserve announced plans to reduce the pace of bond buying amid faster-than-estimated economic growth. Three rounds of stimulus, known as quantitative easing, have sent the S&P 500 up 172 percent from a 12-year low in 2009.

Pending home sales increased 0.2 percent, the first gain in six months, after a 1.2 percent drop in October that was larger than initially reported, the National Association of Realtors said Monday in Washington. The median projection in a Bloomberg survey of economists called for a 1 percent advance.

Five years after the equity bull market started, U.S. investors returned to stocks in 2013, just in time for the best relative returns versus bonds on record.

Exchange-traded and mutual funds investing in shares took in about $162 billion, the most since 2000, according to data compiled by Bloomberg and the Investment Company Institute. At the same time, the S&P 500's 29 percent advance has beaten government debt by 32 percentage points, the widest spread since at least 1978, according to data compiled by Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Bloomberg.

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