December 17, 2014
Wall Street up, S&P 500 sets record high but fails to hold 2,000 mark
The S&P 500 was unable to hold the 2,000 mark after moving above the milestone level for the first time today, but still managed to close at a record high, buoyed by financials and biotechnology stocks.
The significance of the milestone was more psychological than fundamental, and it represents the high point of a nearly six-year rally that has boosted retirement accounts for Americans from Wall Street to Main Street, though the gains have largely benefited wealthier Americans. On a total-return basis the S&P 500 has more than tripled from its 2009 low hit during the financial crisis.
The day's gains were broad, with each of the 10 primary sectors on the benchmark S&P index advancing.
Biotech stocks, which have recovered from a sharp drop earlier this year to become a primary driver of recent equity gains, continued to outperform. The Nasdaq Biotech index rose 2.4 percent and is up 8.6 percent for the month.
InterMune shares surged 35.4 percent to $72.85 to help lift the sector after it agreed to be acquired by Roche Holding AG for $8.3 billion in cash, the latest vote of confidence in a sector that many, including Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, worry is overvalued.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 75.65 points or 0.44 percent, to 17,076.87, the S&P 500 gained 9.52 points or 0.48 percent, to 1,997.92 and the Nasdaq Composite added 18.80 points or 0.41 percent, to 4,557.35.
European shares fell after a brisk two-week rally, hurt by a ratcheting-up of tensions in Ukraine, although traders said a dovish tone in a speech by US Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen limited losses.
Souring the mood, Ukraine declared that Russia had launched a "direct invasion" of its territory after Moscow sent a convoy of aid trucks across the border into eastern Ukraine where pro-Russian rebels are fighting government forces.
But the FTSEurofirst, which fell as much as 0.7 percent in a choppy day of trade, managed to recover some of its poise to end the session down 0.3 percent at 1,351.38 points.
The euro zone's blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 index was down 0.8 percent at 3,098.50 points. In the first minutes of trading, the index tested a key resistance level representing its 200-day moving average, before falling back.
Meanwhile, Tokyo stocks rebounded to a 3-1/2-week high today, led by exporters and others as the yen struck a seven-month low against the dollar after a gathering of central bankers underscored the diverging path of Japanese and US interest rates.
The benchmark Nikkei average climbed 0.5 percent to 15,613.25 points, its highest closing level since July 31. It shed 0.3 percent on Friday, breaking a nine-day winning streak - the longest since December.
However, the trading activity was subdued, with trading volume hitting the lowest in a week.
The broader Topix gained 0.4 percent to 1,291.31, while the JPX-Nikkei Index 400 also added 0.4 percent to 11,751.23.