U.S. stocks closed higher Friday, completing three straight days of gains, as the S&P 500 Index jumped to its biggest weekly gain in nearly two years. The S&P 500 came within a mere 5 points of breaking its record closing high, previously set on Dec. 5, continuing three straight days of gains following the U.S. Federal Reserve's policy meeting earlier this week.
The Dow, which measures the share prices of 30 large industrial companies, rose 26.65 points, or 0.15 percent, to finish at 17,804.80; the S&P 500 stock index, which tracks the share prices of the nation's 500 largest publicly traded companies, climbed 9.42 points, or 0.46 percent, to end at 2,070.65. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite gained 16.98 points, or 0.36 percent, to finish at 4,765.38.
The Dow posted its best one-day point gain since Nov. 30, 2011, on Thursday, which was also the best one-day gain of the year for the S&P 500. On Dec. 5, the blue-chip Dow came within just 10 points of hitting the psychologically important milestone of 18,000, and heading into the last few trading days of the year, analysts expect the U.S. stock market to continue the rally. “I say we rally into the year-end,” Karl Snyder, chief market strategist at Garden State Securities, said.
Investor sentiment continued to ride gains from Wednesday and Thursday after the U.S. Federal Reserve pledged to remain “patient” before declining to raise interest rates, signaling the central bank could hike rates sometime next year.
After global oil prices fell to five-year lows earlier this week, crude prices rallied Friday, boosting investor optimism about the global economy. West Texas Intermediate crude, the benchmark for U.S. oil prices, jumped 4.4 percent Thursday to $56.52 per barrel, for Jan. 15 delivery, on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Meanwhile, global benchmark Brent crude climbed 5.42 percent Thursday to $62.48 a barrel on the London ICE Futures Exchange.
Ahead on next week’s economic calendar, economists will be watching data that will reveal the health of the U.S. consumer ahead of the Christmas holiday. Monday, the National Association of Realtors will release existing home sales data for November. The Commerce Department will post consumer spending figures for November Tuesday, along with personal consumption expenditures, the preferred measure the Federal Reserve uses to measure U.S. inflation. Wednesday, the U.S. government’s report on weekly jobless claims is released.