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US: Dow drifts to fresh record after quiet session


[NEW YORK] The Dow drifted to a fresh record Thursday as US stocks gained in the second-to-last trading session of a heady year for Wall Street.

Most of the 30 companies in the Dow advanced in a quiet holiday session with trading so light that quipped that the stock market "continues to go through the motions of being open".

The Dow Jones Industrial Average ended up 0.3 per cent at 24,837.51.

The broad-based S&P 500 added 0.2 per cent to close at 2,687.54, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index won 0.2 per cent to 6,950.16.

Among blue-chip companies, UnitedHealth Group was the biggest riser with a 1.1 per cent gain. Others with above-average increases included American Express, Caterpillar, IBM and Travelers.

US stocks have had a robust year, boosted by an improving labour market, anticipation of the massive US tax cut plan that was signed into law last week by President Donald Trump, and improving economic conditions in other key regions.

The S&P 500 is up about 20 per cent for the year, while the Dow has hit new closing records 71 times, the most since the index was created in 1896.

Some analysts expect US stocks to notch additional records in 2018 due to the lift the tax cut will provide to corporate earnings. But others are girding for a return of volatility after a placid 2017.

A note released this week by Wells Fargo Advisors predicted the tax bill could extend the US economic growth cycle "by a couple of years more", boosting some sectors, such as industrials.