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VOL. 41 | NO. 42 | Friday, October 20, 2017

US stocks end higher; S&P 500, Dow on 6-week winning streak

The Associated Press

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Wall Street capped a week with no shortage of milestones with a few more Friday.

U.S. stocks closed modestly higher, lifting the Standard & Poor's 500 index to its fifth record close in a row. The Dow Jones industrial average, which crossed past the 23,000 mark for the first time on Wednesday, also finished the day with its fifth-straight all-time high.

Banks led the gainers Friday. Technology companies also posted big gains, helping to drive the Nasdaq composite to a record high.

The latest milestones came as investors drew encouragement from the Senate's passage of a budget bill that is expected to ease the path for the White House's tax cut proposal.

"Market expectations for an impactful tax reform have been running fairly low," said Mike Baele, managing director at U.S. Bank Private Wealth Management. "That changed a bit today with the Senate passing the budget resolution for 2018."

The S&P 500 index rose 13.11 points, or 0.5 percent, to 2,575.21. The Dow gained 165.59 points, or 0.7 percent, to 23,328.63. The Nasdaq composite added 23.99 points, or 0.4 percent, to 6,629.05. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks picked up 7.20 points, or 0.5 percent, to 1,509.25.

The S&P 500 and the Dow are now on a six-week winning streak.

President Donald Trump's plans to slash corporate taxes and make other business-friendly changes to the nation's tax laws have helped lift U.S. stocks in recent weeks. Under the administration's tax plan, the first major overhaul of the tax code in three decades, corporations would see their top tax rate cut from 35 percent to 20 percent.

On Thursday, the Senate narrowly passed a $4 trillion budget resolution that now goes to the House of Representatives. The bill sets the stage for tax legislation later this year that could pass through the Senate without the threat of a filibuster by Democrats. It also adds $1.5 trillion to the deficit over the next 10 years.

Should tax reform pass, it's also a good bet that interest rates will move higher, which will benefit banks and other financial companies. That's one reason banks and bond yields rose Friday.

Higher bond yields allow banks to charge higher interest rates on mortgages and other loans. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.38 percent from 2.32 percent late Thursday.

Synchrony Financial gained $1.33, or 4.2 percent, to $33.04. Citizens Financial Group picked up 90 cents, or 2.4 percent, to $38.33. Both also reported higher quarterly earnings than analysts had been expecting.

Technology sector companies also had a good day.

PayPal Holdings climbed 5.5 percent after the payment technology company reported big gains in new users and transactions. The stock rose $3.72 to $70.97.

While still early in the third-quarter earnings season, strong earnings helped push the market higher this week.

Just under 12 percent of S&P 500 companies have released quarterly results through Friday. Of those, 78 percent reported earnings and revenue that beat financial analysts' estimates, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence.

"Companies have been able to, once again, beat expectations up to this point," said Baele. "The combination of strong economic data, good earnings and now the prospect of fiscal stimulus is really helping to support equities."

Shares in several companies made big moves Friday after traders reviewed their latest quarterly results.

Skechers USA soared 41.4 percent after the shoe company said that its profit and sales were stronger than analysts expected. The stock rose $9.96 to $33.99.

Atlassian jumped $9.92, or 24.6 percent, to $50.17. The business software company's earnings and revenue beat Wall Street's forecasts. It also raised its forecast.

Semiconductor company Maxim Integrated also posted better-than-expected results. Its stock rose $2, or 4 percent, to $52.09.

General Electric bounced back after the industrial conglomerate slashed its annual forecast and reported a disappointing third quarter. The stock gained 25 cents, or 1.1 percent, to $23.83.

Other companies put traders in a selling mood with their latest quarterly results or outlooks didn't recover. NCR gave up 10.8 percent after the company cut its annual revenue forecast and said orders for ATMs were weaker than it expected. Its shares lost $4 to $33.05.

Oil prices closed higher after wavering between small gains and losses for much of the day.

Benchmark U.S. crude added 18 cents to settle at $51.47 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, used to price international oils, gained 52 cents to $57.75 a barrel in London.

The gains helped lift most of the energy companies in the S&P 500. Helmerich & Payne climbed $1.06, or 2.1 percent, to $52.

In other energy trading, wholesale gasoline rose 3 cents to $1.68 a gallon. Heating oil picked up 3 cents to $1.81 a gallon. Natural gas gained 4 cents to $2.92 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Gold fell $9.50 to $1,280.50 an ounce. Silver lost 18 cents to $17.09 an ounce. Copper was little changed at $3.17 a pound.

The dollar strengthened to 113.50 yen from 112.65 yen on Thursday. The euro fell to $1.1780 from $1.1830.

Major stock indexes overseas were mixed Friday.

In Europe, Germany's DAX and the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares finished flat. The CAC 40 in France added 0.1 percent. In Asia, Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 finished less than 0.1 percent higher ahead of parliamentary elections on Sunday. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's party is expected to retain a comfortable lead.

Elsewhere, South Korea's Kospi added 0.7 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng index rebounded 1.2 percent after a big sell-off the day before.

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