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US: S&P 500 reaches new high to clinch record bull run

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[NEW YORK] The benchmark S&P 500 stock index clinched its longest bull-market run on Friday, closing above its previous January high, as Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell affirmed the US central bank's current pace of rate hikes.

The S&P had last reached a new closing high on Jan 26, then retreated more than 10 per cent, a correction that lasted until Feb 8. Friday's new closing high confirmed that the index's bull run remained intact.

Speaking at a research symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Mr Powell said the Fed's gradual interest rate hikes were the best way to protect the economic recovery, maintain strong job growth and keep inflation under control. His comments did little to change market expectations of a rate hike in September and perhaps again in December.

Investors said they were reassured that Mr Powell's comments stayed in line with previous commentary from the Fed regarding policy. Economic data also boosted sentiment.

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New orders for key US-made capital goods increased more than expected in July and shipments growth held firm, the Commerce Department said.

"That's what the markets wanted to hear," said Oliver Pursche, chief market strategist at Bruderman Asset Management in New York. "The economic data and strong environment as a whole is the basis, and (Mr Powell) didn't get in the way."

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 133.37 points, or 0.52 per cent, to 25,790.35, the S&P 500 gained 17.71 points, or 0.62 per cent, to 2,874.69 and the Nasdaq Composite added 67.52 points, or 0.86 per cent, to 7,945.98.

For the week, the Dow added 0.47 per cent, the S&P gained 0.87 per cent, and the Nasdaq increased 1.66 per cent.

The small-cap Russell 2000 index also advanced 0.5 per cent to reach a new closing high.

A dip in the dollar after Mr Powell's comments helped lift materials and energy stocks as the prices of oil and metals rose. The S&P 500 materials sector jumped 1.2 per cent, the biggest percentage gain among the 11 major S&P sectors.

Netflix Inc shares rose 5.8 per cent to add the most gains to the S&P 500 after SunTrust Robinson Humphrey upgraded its rating on the stock to "buy" and projected that third-quarter subscriber growth would match or beat Wall Street estimates.

Autodesk Inc shares leaped 15.3 per cent, the greatest percentage gain among S&P 500 stocks, after the software maker's quarterly results beat estimates.

Shares of Gap Inc and Foot Locker Inc sank 8.6 per cent and 9.2 per cent, respectively, after the two retailers posted disappointing same-store sales.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 2.50-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.76-to-1 ratio favored advancers.

The S&P 500 posted 36 new 52-week highs and four new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 150 new highs and 31 new lows.

Volume on US exchanges was 5.43 billion shares, compared to the 6.28 billion average over the last 20 trading days.

REUTERS