For stocks, it has been a daily grind higher.
For eight consecutive trading days, the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index has edged higherâalways by less than a percentâthe longest string of gains since 2004. On Friday, it cleared a new milestone, closing above 1500 for the first time in five years.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average, meantime, has notched six advances in a row and is moving ever closer to record highs.
The Dow advanced 70.65 points, or 0.5%, to 13895.98 Friday. It remains just 269 points from its record high, reached in October 2007, of 14164.53. The S&P 500 tacked on 8.14 points, or 0.5%, to 1502.96.
The steady climb, which has left both indexes up more than 5% this year, has demoralized doubters and re-energized believers.
On Friday, Deutsche Bank (DBK.XE)
Earlier in the week, Jim Strugger, derivatives strategist at MKM Partners, retracted his call for a spike in volatility for stocks, suggesting a period of calm, and potential gains, may be ahead.
Among the tailwinds for the market is the Federal Reserve's monthly injection of capital into financial markets, easing of tensions in Washington, and an earnings season that has been largely positive. That has overcome skepticism about the strength of the rally, whether Europe's troubles may flare anew, and the drag of one notable stock: Apple (AAPL)
Apple's descent continued this week, taking the stock down 17% for the year. The company's misadventures mounted Friday as it was unseated by Exxon Mobil (XOM) as
Earnings were front and center this week.
"People are focused on earnings and pleasantly surprised that they've come in better than feared," said Paul Powers, head of U.S. equity sales trading at Raymond James Financial (RJF)
On the economic front, sales of new homes in the U.S. fell more than expected in December from November's upwardly revised reading, the Commerce Department reported. "December did have a dip, but there's really no mistaking the fact that housing is on the mend," said Jim McDonald, chief investment strategist at Northern Trust, which oversees $758 billion of assets in Chicago. "At the end of the day, the overall numbers are good."
European markets were broadly higher, with the Stoxx Europe 600 up 0.3% for its highest close since February 2011.
A reading on the German business climate rose more than economists expected, suggesting the contraction in the euro zone's largest economy may have ended. In addition, euro-zone banks indicated they would repay a larger-than-expected chunk of loans to the European Central Bank two years early.
In Asia, Japan's Nikkei Stock Average soared 2.9% to its highest since April 2010, as a drop in the yen lifted exporters' shares. The Nikkei edged up 0.1% on the week, its 11th consecutive weekly gain, the longest such streak since 1986. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.5% to its highest since April 2011; it rose 1.3% on the week.
Crude-oil prices lost 0.1%, to settle at $95.88 a barrel, while gold slumped 0.8%, to settle at $1,656.40 a troy ounce. The dollar rose against the yen but tumbled versus the euro. The 10-year Treasury note fell in price to yield 1.947%.
Elsewhere in the corporate arena, Microsoft (MSFT)
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