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Stocks close higher for 4th straight week

Encouraging news about the U.S. economy extended the stock market's rally Friday.

A gauge of future economic activity rose more than analysts had expected, as did a measure of consumer confidence.

Stocks closed higher for a fourth straight week. Indexes are at record levels after surging this year on optimism about the economy and record corporate earnings. The market is also being supported by ongoing stimulus from the Federal Reserve, which is keeping long-term borrowing costs at historically low levels.

"This slow but relatively steady growth, that keeps inflation in check and keeps interest rates low, is actually a pretty healthy environment for the stock market," said Liz Ann Sonders, a chief strategist at Charles Schwab & Co. "Right now we are very optimistic."

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 121.18 points to 15,354.40. The index is up 17.2 percent for the year. The Standard & Poor's 500 index climbed 1.03 percent, to 1,667.47. The gauge has gained 16.8 percent this year. The Nasdaq composite climbed 0.97 percent to 3,498.97.

The Conference Board said its index of leading economic indicators rose 0.6 percent last month after a revised decline of 0.2 percent in March. The index is intended to predict how the economy will be doing in three to six months.

The University of Michigan's preliminary survey of consumer confidence climbed to 83.7. Economists had predicted it would climb to 76.8.-- AP

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