S&P 500 closes above 1,900 for first time

Bloomberg NewsMay 24, 2014 

NEW YORK -- The Standard & Poor's 500 index climbed to a record Friday, closing above 1,900 for the first time, as Hewlett-Packard rallied and data showed purchases of new homes climbed in April.

Hewlett-Packard jumped 6.1 percent after announcing more job cuts. GameStop rose 4.2 percent after reporting first- quarter earnings that topped analysts' estimates. Aeropostale tumbled 25 percent after forecasting a bigger loss than analysts had estimated.

The S&P 500 rose [SoftReturn]0.4 percent to 1,900.53, climbing above a record closing level reached May 13. The Russell 2000 index of small companies increased 1.1 percent while the Dow Jones industrial average and Nasdaq composite index turned higher for the year. About 4.6 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges, the lowest volume of the year. U.S. equity markets are closed May 26 for the Memorial Day holiday.

"The equity market is on autopilot with an upward bias," Terry Sandven, chief equity strategist at Minneapolis-based U.S. Bank Wealth Management, which oversees $120 billion, said by phone. "Housing adds to consumer confidence, net worth and consumer spending. That is positive for sentiment and should be a positive for the broader markets."

The S&P 500 climbed 0.2 percent Thursday for a second day of gains as data showing strength in manufacturing boosted confidence in the global economy. The gauge has advanced 1.2 percent this week after slipping for two consecutive weeks.

The Russell 2000, with an average market value of [SoftReturn]$1 billion, has rallied 2.6 percent over three days.

The index tumbled as much as 9.3 percent from a record March 4 amid concern that prices have outrun earnings. Small-caps and Internet shares were among the biggest victims of the market retreat as investors fled last year's best-performing equities.

Sales of new U.S. homes increased 6.4 percent, the most since October, to a 433,000 annualized pace from a revised 407,000 in March that was larger than initially estimated, Commerce Department data showed. The median forecast of 75 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for the rate to accelerate to 425,000. The April gain reflected a surge in Midwest sales.

Central bank officials have been gauging the strength of the economy to help determine the pace of cuts to stimulus efforts that have sent the S&P 500 up as much as 180 percent from a 12-year low in 2009. The Federal Reserve pared its monthly asset buying to $45 billion in April, its fourth straight $10 billion cut, and said further reductions in measured steps are likely.

Fed policy makers said this week that continued stimulus doesn't risk fueling a jump in the inflation rate. Central bank policy makers said last month the economy is showing signs of picking up and the job market is improving.

The S&P 500 is trading at almost 17.5 times reported earnings, the highest level since 2010. About 75 percent of S&P 500 companies that released results for the latest quarter have beaten estimates for profit, while [SoftReturn]53 percent have exceeded projections for revenue.

The U.S. stock market is trading in the tightest range in eight years, according to data from Bespoke Investment Group. In the last three months, the difference between the S&P 500's intraday high and low has been less than 5 percent, the Harrison, New York-based research group said in a report Thursday.

The Chicago Board Options Exchange volatility index, a gauge for U.S. stock volatility known as the VIX, dropped 5.6 percent to 11.36, the lowest level in more than a year. The VIX has closed below 15 for 27 straight days, the longest streak since December, when the index traded below that level for 35 consecutive days.

Eight of 10 main industries in the S&P 500 advanced. Technology stocks rallied 1 percent, while consumer- discretionary and raw-materials shares each climbed more than 0.8 percent.

Hewlett-Packard jumped 6.1 percent to $33.72. After reporting an 11th straight quarter of declining sales, CEO Meg Whitman is propping up profit by cutting as many as 16,000 more employees, on top of 34,000 already announced. Consumers are buying fewer personal computers and printers as they embrace smartphones and tablets, and companies are opting to use more software via the Internet or building their own machines.

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