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Nasdaq composite tops 9,000 for first time as U.S. stocks rise

All three major stock indexes hit record highs Thursday, with retailers and technology companies driving Wall Street gains and pushing the Nasdaq composite above 9,000 points for the first time.

The Nasdaq, which is heavily weighted with tech stocks, was led by computer giant Apple.

The broader stock market rally has vaulted the Dow Jones Industrial Average 23% higher for the year to date, the S&P 500 up 29% and Nasdaq composite to an almost 36% gain.

Mike Desepoli, vice president at Heritage Financial Advisory Group in Port Jefferson Station, said investor concerns about a stock market pullback appear misplaced.

“Each time we reach a new threshold, it gives people pause,” he said. “How much does this bull market have left?”

But Desepoli said that easing trade tensions with China, the Federal Reserve's recent interest rate cuts and the reduced debt-to-income ratio of American households create conditions for an extended rally.

"The market still has room to run," he said, forecasting an additional 15% gain in the S&P 500 in 2020.

Data showing that a last-minute surge in online shopping helped lift holiday sales Thursday gave a boost to shares in Amazon and big department store chains such as Macy's and Nordstrom.

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.

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.

Jon L. Ten Haagen, an investment adviser at Ten Haagen Financial Group in Huntington, said a confirmed deal with China would create a firmer economic foundation for the market.

Still, he cautioned that investors need to be mindful of their own life cycle in additional to macroeconomic trends and position themselves accordingly.

"If you have 15 to 20 years to go before retirement, ride with the market," he said, but if retirement is on the horizon, shift more assets to conservative fixed income securities.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 52 points, or 0.2%, to 28,567. The Nasdaq composite added 0.6%, while the Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks slipped 0.1%.

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

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 brought an average gain of 1.3% over that stretch since 1950, according to the Stock Trader's Almanac.

Health care stocks were the only decliners. Incyte fell 2.9%.

Other health sector stocks fared better. Immunomedics climbed 5.7% after the biopharmaceutical company said that the FDA accepted its application for accelerated approval of a breast-cancer therapy.

In other commodities trading, wholesale gasoline rose 3 cents to $1.75 per gallon. Heating oil climbed 2 cents to $2.05 per gallon. Natural gas jumped 12 cents, or 5.6%, to $2.29 per 1,000 cubic feet.

With AP

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