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US: S&P 500 closes at new record high; Dow above 18,000


[NEW YORK] The S&P 500 on Friday closed at a fresh record high, while the Dow ended above 18,000 for the first time in 2015 following good economic data out of Germany.

The broad-based S&P 500 gained 8.51 points (0.41 per cent) at 2,096.99, almost 6.5 points above the prior record set December 29.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 46.97 (0.26 per cent) to 18,019.35, while the Nasdaq Composite Index advanced 36.22 (0.75 per cent) to 4,893.84.

In the period from October to December, gross domestic product in Germany expanded by a better-than-expected 0.7 per cent, bringing full-year growth to 1.6 percent, the German federal statistics office said.

The strong data helped push the German DAX above 11,000 intraday, with the index finishing up 0.40 per cent at 10,963.40 points. Other European equity markets also rose as Greece appeared closer to a possible overhaul of its multi-billion euro international bailout.

Investors were also heartened by another rise in oil prices, with the benchmark European contract for crude finishing above US$60 a barrel in London.

Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at BMO Private Bank, said investor sentiment is improving.

"While investors recognize the market may be expensive, I don't think too many people are calling for the next crisis around the corner," he said.

Oil-linked stocks rode the rise in commodity prices. Dow member Chevron gained 1.7 per cent and oil-services giant Halliburton put on 3.3 per cent.

Dow member American Express tumbled 3.0 per cent, falling for a second day after the termination of a charge-card venture with Costco Wholesale. RBC Capital Markets said the outcome marked the loss of a "crown jewel" and predicted AmEx could have trouble replacing the lost business.

Costco fell 0.5 per cent.

ConAgra Foods shed 4.4 per cent as the food manufacturer slashed its profit forecast, citing a number of factors, including the higher dollar and a longshoreman dispute on the US West Coast that has depressed exports.

Separately, ConAgra named Sean Connolly as chief executive. Connolly led Hillshire Brands before it was acquired by Tyson Foods in 2014.

King Digital Entertainment surged 13.3 percent after announcing a special dividend of 94 US cents per share as it reported continued user growth spurred by its latest launch of the Candy Crush franchise and other games.

Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year US Treasury rose to 2.04 per cent from 1.98 per cent Thursday, while the 30-year advanced to 2.65 per cent from 2.57 per cent. Bond prices and yields move inversely.