Retailers push Wall St further into record territory
(Associated Press) - January 14, 2018 - 12:00am

NEW YORK (AP) — Rising retailers pushed US stock indexes further into record territory on Friday, as the market’s fabulous start to 2018 carried through its second week.

Interest rates also climbed after a report showed that a key component of inflation accelerated last month. But stocks absorbed the gains without a hiccup, unlike earlier in the week when rate worries helped send the Standard & Poor’s 500 lower for its lone blemish this year.

The S&P 500 rose 18.68 points, or 0.7 percent, to 2,786.24 on Friday to close out its seventh week of gains in the last eight. The index is already up more than four percent for 2018.

The Dow Jones industrial average climbed 228.46, or 0.9 percent, to 25,803.19, the Nasdaq composite rose 49.28, or 0.7 percent, to 7,261.06 and the Russell 2000 index of small-cap stocks gained 5.18, or 0.3 percent, to 1,591.97.

Retailers led the way after a government report confirmed that the holiday shopping season was a strong one, with retail sales rising 0.4 percent last month following a 0.9 percent surge in November. The numbers fit with what individual retailers have said recently, and several have raised their profit forecasts as a result.

Stocks have been remarkably calm and strong for more than a year. Sandy Villere, a partner and portfolio manager at Villere & Co., said he’s optimistic stocks can rise even further because the economy is strengthening and Washington’s move to cut tax rates last month will boost corporate profits, among other reasons.

But some caution is starting to creep in as prices keep climbing. Villere said he’s holding more cash than prior years as the types of stocks he prefers become more difficult to find: companies with strong growth but low prices relative to their earnings and growth.

“We’re not fully invested at this point, but we haven’t switched to pure defense yet either,” Villere said. “Things are good enough to keep things going solidly, at least for the first half of 2018. We try not to be greedy about it.”

The next tests for companies will arrive in coming weeks, as they report their results for the last three months of 2017. Expectations are generally high, and analysts are forecasting growth of nearly 11 percent for S&P 500 earnings per share, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence.

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