partlycloudy
Thursday July 30th, 2015 2:12PM

S&P 500 closes above 1,800 for first time

By The Associated Press
The stock market brushed past another milestone on Friday.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index closed above 1,800 for the first time, capping seven straight weeks of gains.

The broader index is on track for its best performance in 15 years as a combination of solid corporate earnings, a strengthening economy and easy-money policies from the Federal Reserve draw investors to stocks. Stocks have also gained because they offer an attractive alternative to bonds, where interest rates remain close to all-time lows.

"You can't really get better returns other than in the stock market," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Rockwell Global Capital. "It's been a quality run-up in stocks."

The S&P 500 index rose 8.91 points, or 0.5 percent, to 1,804.76. The index has advanced 26.5 percent in 2013. If it finishes at that level, it would be its strongest year since a 26.7 percent gain in 1998.

The Dow Jones industrial average also continued its upward march after finishing above 16,000 for the first time Thursday. The index gained 54.78 points, or 0.3 percent, to 16,064.77.

The Nasdaq composite rose 22.49 points, or 0.6 percent, to 3,991.65.

On Friday, health care stocks led the market's rise. Biotechnology company Biogen Idec surged on reports that it won market exclusivity for its top-selling multiple sclerosis drug in Europe. The company's stock jumped $33.19, or 13 percent, to $285.62.

Health care stocks have also led gains in the S&P 500 this year, rising 38 percent. The industry is attractive to investors. Some of its companies, like Biogen Idec, offer the possibility of explosive growth. Others are established players like Pfizer, which pays big dividends. Health insurance companies have also done well this year as the Affordable Care Act rolls out.

Despite their big gains, stocks could continue to rise. The economy is forecast to keep recovering and that helps companies increase their earnings. And while stock valuations have risen, they are still attractive compared with bonds.

However, investors will likely have to look harder to find winning stocks next year, said Paul Hogan, co-manager of the FAM Equity-Income Fund.

"We've had the rising tide, but going forward, it's the stock pickers that will tend to do better."

Among single stocks that have done well this year, there are two standouts, Netflix and Best Buy.

Netflix has surged 276 percent as the video steaming service and DVD rental company continues to add subscribers. Best Buy has surged 232 percent as the company's turnaround strategy appears to be working after a tough 2012.

Still, there are also grounds for caution.

Given the strong gains this year, stocks are no longer a bargain.

"I'm not pounding the table anymore saying this is the cheapest U.S. equity market in decades," said Andres Garcia-Amaya, a global market strategist at J.P. Morgan Funds.

While investors shouldn't necessarily sell, they should temper their expectations for the level of returns, he said.

The price-earnings ratio of S&P 500 companies, a measure of how much investors are willing to pay for a stock in relation to its earnings, has climbed to 14.9 from 12.6 at the start of the year.

Also, the rally in stocks is getting long in the tooth. The S&P 500 has surged more than 160 percent, since the bull market for stocks began 56 months ago - in March, 2009. Since the Great Depression, the average bull market for stocks has lasted 57 months.

Investors will also have to deal with the end of the Fed's stimulus program, possibly this year.

The central bank is currently buying $85 billion of bonds a month to hold down long-term interest rates, help support the stock rally. The stock market's only two months of decline this year, in June and August, came when investors fretted that the central bank was poised to start reducing, or tapering, its stimulus. Investors sold Treasury notes, long-term interest rates rose and stocks fell.

"The clear headwind that is on everyone's radar screen is the pace and the timing of the Fed's taper," said Jim Russell, regional investment director at US Bank. "That will prove to be a little bit of an adjustment."

In government bond trading, the yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.75 percent from 2.79 percent on Thursday. The yield climbed as high as 3 percent Sept. 5, on concern that Fed policy makers were poised to cut their stimulus.
© Copyright 2015 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
S&P 500 index has its best year since 1997
The stock market closed out a record year with more all-time highs on Tuesday, giving U.S. indexes their biggest annual gains in almost two decades.
6:56PM ( 1 year ago )
Colorado readies for 'Green Wednesday' pot sales
Police were adding extra patrols around pot shops in eight Colorado towns that plan to allow recreational sales to anyone over 21 on Jan. 1.
1:52PM ( 1 year ago )
Kerry seeks framework for Mideast peace talks
A senior State Department official says Secretary of State John Kerry will try this week to get Israel and the Palestinians to agree on a framework for negotiating a final peace agreement, yet cautions against raising expectations for Kerry's latest round of shuttle diplomacy.
1:35PM ( 1 year ago )
U.S. News
Missing Ga. bank director arrested in Brunswick
A bank director accused of losing millions of investors' dollars before vanishing last year was arrested Tuesday during a traffic stop in a city in south Georgia.
7:00PM ( 1 year ago )
Amtrak to suspend some Crescent service in Jan., Feb.
Amtrak service will shut down in parts of the Southeast for several days in January and February for rail maintenance by Norfolk Southern Railway.
9:00AM ( 1 year ago )
Lung cancer scans urged for some smokers, not all
Certain current or former heavy smokers should start getting yearly scans for lung cancer to cut their risk of death from the nation's top cancer killer, government advisers said Monday - even as they stressed that the tests aren't for everyone.
7:26AM ( 1 year ago )
Business News
Sex offender held in Hall County for failing to register
A 47-year-old man was booked into the Hall County Jail Tuesday, being held without bond for allegedly failing to register as a sex offender, his second such arrest.
6:09PM ( 1 year ago )
Pharmacy robberies may involve same suspect
Oakwood Police Tuesday afternoon released details in a pharmacy robbery they're investigating, similar to one that happened in the Hall County Tuesday morning.
5:46PM ( 1 year ago )
Victim critical following apartment fire
A 41-year-old woman was in critical but stable condition Tuesday after being rescued from an apartment fire in Forsyth County late Monday afternoon.
3:16PM ( 1 year ago )
Local/State News
3.3 million dry erase boards recalled after due to cut risk
NEW YORK (AP) — Acco Brands Corp. is recalling about 3.3 million wall-mounted dry erase boards after customers said they cut their hands, fingers and feet while removing the board from a wall.The U.S....
12:33PM ( 1 hour ago )
Afghan Taliban confirm Mullah Omar's death, choose successor
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghanistan's Taliban on Thursday confirmed the death of Mullah Mohammad Omar, who led the group's self-styled Islamic emirate in the 1990s, sheltered al-Qaida through the 9/...
11:27AM ( 2 hours ago )
Hope for miracle dims but search goes on for missing boys
TEQUESTA, Fla. (AP) — Families hoped for a miracle even as science nagged that one was improbable and rescue crews went into a seventh day of searches Thursday for two teens missing at sea.Though it s...
10:18AM ( 3 hours ago )
On Capitol Hill, GOP fighting itself instead of Democrats
When Republicans took full control of Congress this year, they were determined to show voters they could govern responsibly. Instead they've been tearing each other apart in extraordinarily public displays - to the delight of Democrats.
9:50AM ( 4 hours ago )
Applications for US jobless aid rise to still-low 267,000
WASHINGTON (AP) — More people sought U.S. unemployment benefits last week, though the increase was from a very low level and the figures still point to a healthy job market.Applications for jobless ai...
8:48AM ( 5 hours ago )