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Stocks start 2020 by setting more record highs

Wall Street
The New York Stock Exchange.
(Richard Drew / Associated Press)

Stocks got the year off to a roaring start Thursday with more solid gains and record highs for major U.S. indexes, following up on a strong finish to 2019.

The Dow Jones industrial average climbed more than 1% as Walt Disney, Boeing, Apple and other big companies rose. Technology stocks accounted for a good part of the upward move. Smaller-company stocks lagged behind the broader market’s gains.

The market has been grinding higher for weeks, pushing indexes to record highs, as concerns about the strength of the economy and the possibility of further escalation in the U.S.-China trade war have eased. Three interest rate cuts by the Federal Reserve and signals that the central bank is in no hurry to raise rates this year have also helped steady markets after a summer slump.

“The momentum we saw in December is carrying into January,” said Willie Delwiche, investment strategist at Baird. “It might take a little bit to really figure out whether the optimism expressed in U.S. stocks all of last year is warranted with respect to fundamentals, but for now, the benefit of the doubt is with the bulls.”

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The S&P 500 climbed 27.07 points, or 0.8%, to 3,257.85 on Thursday. The Dow advanced 330.36 points, or 1.2%, to 28,868.80. The Nasdaq composite gained 119.58 points, or 1.3%, to 9,092.19. All three indexes notched new record highs.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks, meanwhile, slipped 1.70 points, or 0.1%, to 1,666.77.

The latest gains follow a blockbuster performance by the market in 2019. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq had their best annual performance since 2013.

Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 1.88% from 1.91%.

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U.S. stocks got a boost following a rally overseas after China’s central bank said it would free up more money for lending. The move is expected to boost that country’s slowing economy.

Technology companies accounted for a big slice of the U.S. market’s upward move. Apple rose 2.3% to a new high. Advanced Micro Devices, last year’s best performer in the S&P 500 index, jumped 7.1%.

Communication services and industrial firms also notched solid gains. Facebook added 2.2%. Boeing rose 2.3%. General Electric climbed 6.9%.

Retailers and restaurant chains helped lift the market too. Amazon gained 2.7%. McDonald’s rose 1.6%.

Goldman Sachs Group was among the big gainers in the financial sector, climbing 1.9%.

Utilities, real estate and materials stocks fell as traders shifted money away from the traditionally safe-play sectors.

Tesla climbed 2.9% after a news report suggested the electric car maker would deliver its first China-made Model 3 sedans as early as next week.

Anixter International advanced 3.9% after the supplier of communication and security products agreed to a higher buyout offer from private equity firm Clayton, Dubilier and Rice.

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Energy futures bounced back from an early slide to close mostly higher. Benchmark crude oil rose 12 cents to settle at $61.18 a barrel. Brent crude oil, the international standard, rose 25 cents to close at $66.25 a barrel. Wholesale gasoline rose 1 cent to $1.70 per gallon. Heating oil was little changed at $2.02 per gallon. Natural gas fell 7 cents to $2.12 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Gold rose $5 to $1,524.50 an ounce. Silver rose 14 cents to $17.97 an ounce. Copper rose 4 cents to $2.83 a pound


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