/Markets up as retailers rise with holiday shopping

Markets up as retailers rise with holiday shopping

Stocks moved broadly higher Thursday morning, nudging the major indexes further into record territory.

Technology stocks accounted for a big slice of the gains, which helped to briefly push the Nasdaq composite above the 9,000 mark for the first time.

Financial stocks rose along with bond yields, while Amazon and other retailers climbed after data showed a last-minute surge in online shopping helped holiday sales.

Energy stocks rose as crude oil prices headed higher. Health care and industrial stocks lagged the market.

Trading was muted as U.S. markets reopened after the Christmas holiday.

Canada’s main stock market, the TSX, will reopen December 27.

The benchmark S&P 500 index has finished with a weekly gain in 10 out of the past 11 weeks and is headed for its biggest annual gain since 2013 at 29 per cent.

Trade talk optimism lends boost

Rising optimism around a “Phase 1” trade deal announced earlier this month between the United States and China helped put investors in a buying mood in recent weeks. Fears about a possible recession have also faded since the summer after the Federal Reserve cut interest rates three times, and the central bank appears set to keep them low for a long time.

Still, as traders turn their attention to 2020, fears about the outlook for the global economy remain, as do concerns over unresolved trade issues between Washington and Beijing. Next year also has the added complication of the U.S. presidential election.

The S&P 500 was up 0.3 per cent as of 11:50 a.m. Eastern time. The index last hit a record high on Monday.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 62 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 28,578. The Nasdaq composite added 0.5 per cent, on track to extend its winning streak to 11 days.

The indexes are coming off a mixed finish in shortened, pre-Christmas trading on Tuesday.

People carry shopping bags while crossing a street in San Francisco, Friday, Nov. 29. Amazon and other retailers rose after data showed a last-minute surge in online shopping helped holiday sales. (Jeff Chiu/The Associated Press)

Retail rally

 A report from Mastercard SpendingPulse showed holiday retail sales rose 3.4 per cent, with online shopping rising 18.8 per cent.

Amazon was the biggest gainer in the S&P 500, climbing 2.9 per cent. Macy’s rose one per cent and Nordstrom added 1.6 per cent.

Technology stocks continued to add to their blockbuster gains Thursday. The sector is on pace to end the year with a 48 per cent gain, well above the other 10 sectors in the S&P 500. Apple was up 1.5 per cent and Western Digital rose 1 per cent.

Citigroup led the gainers in the financial sector, climbing 1.4 per cent. Banks got a boost as the 10-year Treasury yield rose to 1.92 per cent from 1.90 per cent late Tuesday.

The yield is a benchmark for the interest rates that lenders charge on mortgages and other consumer loans. Higher yields make those loans are more profitable for banks.

The final five

The last five days of December and the first two in the new year have historically been a positive period for the market.

Stocks have have brought an average gain of 1.3 per cent over that stretch since 1950, according to the Stock Trader’s Almanac.

Benchmark U.S. crude gained 54 cents to $61.65 per barrel. Brent crude oil, the international standard, picked up 45 cents to $66.61 per barrel.

The rise in oil prices helped lift energy sector stocks. Occidental Petroleum gained 1.5 per cent.

Markets in Europe, Hong Kong and Australia remained closed. Elsewhere in Asia, Japan’s Nikkei 225 index advanced 0.6 per cent to 23,924.92, while the Kospi in South Korea gained 0.4 per cent to 2,197.93. India’s Sensex lost 0.3 per cent to 41,339.87. In Southeast Asia, benchmarks were mixed, while Taiwan was flat.

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