U.S. Stocks Extend Run To Record Highs With Moderate Advance

Stocks fluctuated over the course of the trading day on Friday but largely maintained a positive bias throughout the session. With the upward move on the day, the major averages once again reached new record closing highs. The major averages moved to the upside going into the close, ending the day moderately higher. The Dow edged up 50.46 points or 0.2 percent to 29,348.10, the Nasdaq rose 31.81 points or 0.3 percent to 9,388.94 and the S&P 500 climbed 12.81 points or 0.4 percent to 3,329.62. For the week, the tech-heavy Nasdaq surged up by 2.3 percent, while the S&P 500 and the Dow jumped by 2 percent and 1.8 percent, respectively. The continued strength on Wall Street was widely attributed to Chinese GDP data even though the latest report showed China's economy grew at the slowest pace since 1990. The report from China's National Bureau of Statistics said Chinese GDP grew by 6.1 percent in 2019 compared to the 6.6 percent growth seen in 2018. However, the GDP growth matched economist estimates, which seems to have allowed global traders to breathe a sigh of relief that the impact of the U.S.-China trade war was not worse than feared. More upbeat U.S. economic data also generated buying interest, with a report from the Commerce Department showing a substantial increase in U.S. housing starts in the month of December. The Commerce Department said housing starts skyrocketed by 16.9 percent to an annual rate of 1.608 million in December after jumping by 2.6 percent to a revised rate of 1.375 million in November. The surge came as a big surprise to economists, who had expected housing starts to rise by 0.7 percent to a rate of 1.375 million from the 1.365 million originally reported for the previous month. With the much bigger than expected increase, housing starts soared to their highest level since hitting a rate of 1.649 million in December of 2006. Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve released a report before the start of trading showing a modest pullback in U.S. industrial production in the month of December. The Fed said industrial production fell by 0.3 percent in December after climbing by a downwardly revised 0.8 percent in November. Economists had expected industrial production to dip by 0.2 percent compared to the 1.1 percent jump originally reported for the previous month. The pullback in production came as utilities output plunged by 5.6 percent in December, with unseasonably warm weather leading to a large decrease in demand for heating. Despite the continued advance by the broader markets, most of the major sectors ended the day showing only modest moves. Steel and utilities stocks saw some strength on the day, while notable weakness was visible among gold, natural gas and tobacco stocks. The economic calendar for next week is relatively light following the holiday on Monday, which may lead to increased attention on the latest earnings news. A number of big-name companies are due to report their quarterly results next week, including IBM Corp. (IBM), Netflix (NFLX), Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), Procter & Gamble (PG), Intel (INTC), and American Express (AXP).