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US: Wall St hits records in broad, thinly traded rally

[NEW YORK] US stocks rose on Friday, with major indexes hitting records and on track for a second straight weekly advance, though trading was light with many traders still out for the Christmas holiday.

The day's gain was broad, with all 10 S&P 500 industry sectors higher on the day. The advance continued Wall Street's recent upward bias, with the S&P up about 6 per cent from a recent closing low hit earlier this month.

The S&P is on track for its 52nd record close of the year, the most since 1995 and the fourth-best annual record ever, while the Dow is on track for its seventh straight daily gain, its longest streak since March 2013.

"The overall trend remains higher, but we're reaching a point where we're overbought. Six per cent since last Tuesday is such a strong move in such a short period of time, even if bulls have the upper hand in the longer term," said Adam Sarhan, chief executive of Sarhan Capital in New York.

Recent gains have come on strong economic data, including a bullish read on economic growth earlier this week, as well as accommodative measures from central banks. Chinese media this week reported that the country's central bank was moving to further ease liquidity conditions inside banks.

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The Nasdaq biotech index rose 2 per cent, though it remains down 3.8 per cent in a week marked by heavy volatility. Regeneron Pharmaceuticals rose 3.2 per cent to US$413.12 as the S&P 500's biggest percentage gainer, followed by Gilead Sciences, up 3 per cent to US$94.04.

At 10:58 a.m. (1558 GMT) the Dow Jones industrial average rose 56.99 points, or 0.32 per cent, to 18,087.2, the S&P 500 gained 8.59 points, or 0.41 per cent, to 2,090.47 and the Nasdaq Composite added 26.18 points, or 0.55 per cent, to 4,799.65.

For the week, the Dow is up 1.6 per cent, the S&P 500 is up 1 per cent and the Nasdaq is up 0.7 per cent. It is the second straight weekly gain for all three, and the ninth positive week in the past ten for the Dow and S&P.

The S&P Retail index rose 0.5 per cent in the first trading session after Christmas. Among notable names, Best Buy Co rose 1.2 per cent to US$39.37 while Macy's Inc dipped 0.4 per cent to US$64.02. Inc rose 1.2 per cent to US$306.66. "The data still isn't in yet, but things are looking positive since the shopping season coincided with a big drop in crude oil, which means lower gas prices," Sarhan said. "That translates to more disposable income, which could mean stronger retail sales." Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by 2,132 to 717, for a 2.97-to-1 ratio on the upside; on the Nasdaq, 1,770 issues rose and 787 fell for a 2.25-to-1 ratio favoring advancers.

The benchmark S&P 500 index was posting 56 new 52-week highs and 5 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite was recording 69 new highs and 12 new lows.


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