Record run for Dow, S&P 500 continues

Stocks ended higher Friday as the Dow Jones industrial average and S&P 500 index continued their push into record-high territory.

The Dow finished up 0.5% — 85 points — to 15,961.7, the Standard & Poor’s 500 rose 0.4% to 1,798.18 and the tech-laden Nasdaq composite gained 0.3% to 3,985.97.

It was the 38th time this year the Dow has finished at a record level and the 36th time for the S&P 500. The Nasdaq is at a 13-year high.

On Thursday, the Dow gained 54.59 points, or 0.4%, to finish at an all-time high of 15,876.22, while the S&P 500 index added 8.62 points, or 0.5%, to close at a record 1,790.62. The Nasdaq composite edged up 7.16 points, or 0.2%, to 3,972.74. Thursday’s gains were mostly in risk-averse sectors, such as power companies, banks and drug makers.

Investors’ optimism have been fed this week by remarks incoming Federal Reserve chief nominee Janet Yellen made at a Senate confirmation hearing. She expressed her ongoing support for the Fed’s massive monthly bond buying of government and mortgage-backed securities to spur economic growth.

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In Asia Friday, markets followed in lock step with benchmark stock indexes in the U.S. In the prior session.

Yellen, who is on tap to succeed Ben Bernanke as Fed chairman in January, told lawmakers on Capitol Hill Thursday that she’s prepared to stand by the central bank’s efforts to pump up the world’s No. 1 economy when she’s chairman, if that’s what it needs.

During a two-hour confirmation hearing before the Senate Banking Committee, Yellen embraced her so-called “dovish” reputation and reiterated support for the Fed’s low interest-rate policies. She warned critics that the potential harm the policies pose are outweighed by the risk of a sluggish economy.

Her statements convinced markets that the central bank won’t reduce its $85 billion of monthly bond purchases until at least March. Previously, there were expectations that the bond buying, which has kept interest rates low and sent a wave of investment into higher-yielding stocks, would be scaled back in December.

“Yellen indicated that it was key not to take out stimulus measures during a fragile recovery,” said a Mizuho Bank research commentary Friday. However, she also stressed that the extraordinary level of stimulus “cannot go on forever,” the note said.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 index added 1.9% to 15,165.92 as the yen weakened, trading over 100 to the dollar. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index was up 1.7% to 23,032.15 and Seoul’s Kospi gained 1.9% to 2,005.64. Other key indexes in Southeast Asia and mainland China also gained.

European markets ended the week higher. Britain’s FTSE 100 index gained 0.4% to 6,693.44 and Germany’s DAX 30 index gained 0.2% to 9,168.69. France’s CAC 40 index added 0.2% to close at 4.292.23.

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In energy markets Friday globally, benchmark U.S. Crude for December delivery was down 20 cents to $94.80 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract slipped 12 cents to $93.76 a barrel on Thursday.

Contributing: The Associated Press.

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