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On a listless trading day, the stock market sets record with the longest bull run ever

On a listless trading day, the stock market sets record with the longest bull run ever
Trader Michael Milano works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday. The bull market in U.S. stocks became the longest in Wall Street history on Wednesday at 3,453 days, beating the bull market of the 1990s that ended in the dot-com collapse in 2000. (Richard Drew / Associated Press)

The bull market in U.S. stocks is now the longest on record.

It became the longest in Wall Street history on Wednesday at 3,453 days, beating the bull market of the 1990s that ended in the dot-com collapse in 2000.

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That's how long the benchmark S&P 500 index of major U.S. stocks has gone without a drop of 20% or more, the traditional definition of a bear market.

Despite its long duration, this bull market actually wasn't as big in terms of overall gains as the 1990s one.

The milestone arrived on a listless day of trading that left the S&P 500 with a slight loss. Gains by technology and energy companies outweighed losses in industrial stocks, banks and other sectors.

“This expansion is alive and well, this bull market is alive and well,” said Jason Pride, chief investment officer for private clients at Glenmede. “Valuations are definitely higher than we tend to like to see them, but they're actually not that atypical for the back part of an economic expansion.”

The S&P 500 index finished with a loss of 1.14 points, or 0.04%, at 2,861.82. The Dow Jones Industrial Average slid 88.69 points, or 0.3%, to 25,733.60. The Nasdaq composite gained 29.92 points, or 0.4%, to 7,889.10.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks picked up 4.50 points, or 0.3%, to 1,722.54. The Russell marked its second straight all-time high.

Gainers finished with a slight edge on decliners on the New York Stock Exchange.

The bull market for U.S. stocks began in March 2009 — just as the worst of the financial crisis was easing — and has now lasted nine years, five months and 13 days. That’s a record few would have predicted when the market struggled to find its footing after a 50% plunge during the crisis.

The long rally has added trillions of dollars to household wealth, helping the economy, and stands as a testament to the ability of large U.S. companies to squeeze out profits in tough times and confidence among investors as they shrugged off repeated crises and kept buying.

Despite its longevity, the bull market lags others on the basis of magnitude, or the cumulative gain it has generated for investors.

As of Tuesday, the S&P 500 had climbed 323% over the current bull market. By comparison, the bull market that ran through much of the 1990s and ended in March 2000 led to a 417% gain for the S&P 500, according to S&P Dow Jones Indices.

“While it's long in time, it could still go on longer because, magnitude-wise, it's just not that far [along],” Pride said.

Despite the milestone, investors mainly kept an eye on company earnings reports and the release of the minutes from the Federal Reserve's most recent meeting of policymakers earlier this month.

The minutes of their discussions revealed deepening concerns that escalating trade wars could hurt the economy. The minutes also underscored expectations that the central bank is likely to increase its policy rate at its next meeting in September. Many economists believe another rate hike will follow in December.

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The afternoon release of the minutes didn't have much of an impact on the market, which continued to trade in a narrow range.

Later this week, central bankers, including new Fed chief Jerome Powell, gather in Jackson Hole, Wyo., for an annual symposium that has often generated market-moving news.

Stocks traded mostly in a narrow range for much of the day Wednesday.

Technology sector stocks reversed course after an early slide. Nvidia gained 3.8% to $262.82.

Traders also bid up shares in a couple of big retailers that reported quarterly results that topped Wall Street's expectations. Target climbed 3.2% to $85.94, while Lowe's jumped 5.8% to $105.52.

Industrial stocks took some of the heaviest losses. American Airlines Group lost 2.8% to $39.19.

U.S. benchmark crude climbed 3.1% to $67.87 per barrel in New York. Brent crude, the standard for international oil prices, dipped 0.1% to $74.70 per barrel in London.

The pickup in oil prices helped boost energy sector stocks. Marathon Oil gained 3.3% to $20.87.

In other energy futures trading, heating oil rose 2.1% to $2.17 a gallon. Wholesale gasoline gained 2.5% to $2.07 a gallon. Natural gas dropped 0.8% to $2.96 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 2.82% from 2.84% late Tuesday.

The dollar rose to 110.57 yen from 110.40 yen late Tuesday. The euro strengthened to $1.1589 from $1.1574.

Gold rose 0.3% to $1,203.30 an ounce. Silver fell 0.1% to $14.75 an ounce. Copper slid 0.7% to $2.69 a pound.

In Europe, Germany's DAX was flat, while France's CAC 40 edged up 0.2%. The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares added 0.1%. In Asia, Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 closed 0.6% higher. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 lost 0.3%. South Korea's Kospi rose 0.1%, and Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 0.6%.

2:15 p.m.: This article was updated with closing market results.

11:20 a.m.: This article was updated with the latest market results.

This article was originally posted at 9 a.m.

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