The Dow Jones industrial average inched to another record close Friday, marking the third straight week of triple-digit increases in the blue chip index.
The Dow spent much of a quiet session in the red following a strong surge Thursday in which it broke through 11,900 for the first time to set closing and trading highs. Thursday's advance came amid optimism over the health of corporate earnings and Friday's gain put the Dow 12,000 benchmark within closer reach.
The index's gain Friday marked the Dow's sixth record close in two weeks. Stocks showed little overall movement Friday as traders were unimpressed with a profit report from General Electric Co. and brokerages issued negative comments about Home Depot Inc. Oil prices, whose decline has driven stocks in recent weeks, moved higher, holding the major indexes to modest gains.
"I think more than anything today we're sort of consolidating yesterday's gain," said Mike Malone, trading analyst at Cowen & Co.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 12.81, or 0.11 percent, to 11,960.51, passing the record close of 11,947.70 set Thursday as well as an intraday high of 11,959.62 reached the same day.
Broader stock indicators also advanced. The Standard & Poor's 500 index was up 2.79, or 0.20%, at 1,365.62, and the Nasdaq composite index was up 11.11, or 0.47%, at 2,357.29.
The Dow rose 110.30 points, or 0.93%, for the week, while the S&P gained 1.19% and the Nasdaq rose 2.49%. The Dow had also shown triple digit point gains in the preceding two weeks.
Despite the overall gains in the market, the S&P stands about 10.6% below its high close of 1,527.46 and the Nasdaq is even further off, about 53% below its March 2000 high of 5,048.62.
Bonds fell, with the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note rising to 4.80% from 4.77% late Thursday. The dollar was mixed against major currencies, while gold prices fell.
Light, sweet crude settled up 71 cents at $58.57 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
The markets were caught off guard Friday by a 0.4% decline in September US retail sales. The drop reported by the Commerce Department stemmed from a 9.3% decline in spending on gasoline. Spending increased in other areas, however.
Malone said he believed the retail sales figure was positive because it showed consumers spent elsewhere as prices at the pump retreated. "For all the talk of the death of the consumer, that is definitely not manifesting itself," he said.
Indeed, consumers have grown more upbeat as gas prices have fallen. The University of Michigan's preliminary consumer sentiment figure, released Friday, was a stronger-than-expected 92.3 for October. That compares with a 85.4 reading for September.
Noman Ali, a portfolio manager for US equities at MFC Global Investment Management, said investor enthusiasm in recent weeks was tied to expectations of strong profit reports and the notion that consumers have continued to open their wallets.
"Underlying consumer strength is still pretty strong. There's really little to worry about in terms of the economy going into recession." Looking ahead, he expects earnings will continue to drive stocks in the coming weeks. He expects retail profits will make a strong showing now that oil prices have moderated from their midsummer highs.
In corporate news, GE, the conglomerate whose products range from light bulbs to turbines, reported a 6% increase in its third-quarter profit to match Wall Street's expectations and turned in better-than-expected revenue. GE, which was down 24 cents at $35.98, held back the S&P 500, which is weighted by market capitalization.
Home Depot declined $1, or 2.64%, to $36.90 after reports from several brokerages raised concerns about America's largest home improvement chain. Home Depot, which like GE is one of the 30 stocks that make up the Dow, on Thursday announced plans to shake up its executive structure in a bid to improve its performance.
Furniture maker La-Z-Boy Inc. fell $1.14, or 7.6%, to $13.86 after the company pulled down its quarterly earnings and sales forecasts for all three of its divisions, citing a weak retail environment.
Viewpoint Corp., which provides Web search and advertising services, was down 26 cents, or 25.5%, to 76 cents after cutting its full-year revenue forecast amid soft ad spending and customers' product delays.
FMS Financial Corp. rose $4.85, or 18.1%, to $31.60 after Beneficial Mutual Bancorp Inc. agreed to purchase the parent of Farmers and Mechanics Bank for $28 per share, or about $183.2 million in cash and stock.
Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by about 3 to 2 on the New York Stock Exchange, where consolidated volume came to about 2.48 billion shares, compared with 2.53b. Thursday.
The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies was up 5.56, or 0.73%, at 762.65.
Meanwhile, Japan's Nikkei stock average closed up 1.02%. Britain's FTSE 100 closed up 0.59%, Germany's DAX index was up 0.22%, and France's CAC-40 was down 0.15%.
The Dow Jones industrials ended the week up 110.30, or 0.93%, to finish at 11,960.51. The S&P 500 index rose 16.04, or 1.19%, to 1,365.62.
The Nasdaq gained 57.30, or 2.49%, to end at 2,357.29.
The Russell 2000 index closed the week up 22.84, or 3.09%, at 762.65.
The Dow Jones Wilshire 5000 Composite Index - a free-float weighted index that measures 5,000 US based companies - ended the week at 13,696.31, up 201.48 points from last week. A year ago the index was at 11,722.81.
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