U.S. stocks rose, sending the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index to a record close, as Amazon.com Inc. and Microsoft Corp. sales beat estimates while a drop in consumer confidence added to speculation the Federal Reserve will delay scaling back monetary stimulus.
Amazon.com surged 9.4 percent as consumers flocked to the largest online retailer ahead of the holiday shopping season, helping to curtail losses. Microsoft jumped 6 percent as the company relied on corporate software demand to make up for weak consumer personal-computer purchases.
The S&P 500 rose 0.4 percent to 1,759.79 at 4 p.m. in New York, surpassing its previous record of 1,754.67 set on Oct. 22.
“Earnings have been good enough and the liquidity spigot is open so that people see very little risk in the system,” Charlie Smith, chief investment officer of Pittsburgh-based Fort Pitt Capital Group Inc., said in a phone interview. His firm oversees $1.5 billion. “It’s like a giant game of musical chairs. The attitude on the part of most investors is that they have to play while the Fed got the music going.”
The S&P 500 has jumped 4.7 percent this month as lawmakers agreed to raise the government’s borrowing limit, avoiding a sovereign default. Equities rallied for the third straight week, with the benchmark index up 0.9 percent, as signs of slower economic recovery fueled bets the Fed will wait until March before scaling back bond purchases.
Exchange-traded funds that invest in U.S. equities took in more than $2.3 billion the last four days, bringing this month’s flows to about $15.8 billion, data compiled by Bloomberg show. October is on track for the biggest intake since July.
Stocks briefly pared gains as a person in Kentucky Republican Rand Paul’s office said the Senator is considering placing a hold on the nomination of Janet Yellen to lead the Fed. Equities rallied earlier this month when President Barack Obama chose Yellen to succeed Ben S. Bernanke as chairman. As a top deputy to Bernanke, Yellen supported the central bank’s bond-buying programs that have helped propel the S&P 500 up 160 percent from a 12-year low in 2009.
Better-than-expected earnings and continued monetary stimulus have driven the S&P 500 up 23 percent this year. While the rally lifted equity valuations to a four-year high, with the index trading at 15.9 times estimated operating earnings, that’s still below the multiples at the market’s two previous peaks, when the ratio reached 16.5 in October 2007 and 25.7 in March 2000, data compiled by Bloomberg show.
“Valuation is still reasonable and the economy appears to be getting better,” Alan Gayle, senior investment strategist and director of asset allocation at RidgeWorth Capital Management, said by phone from Atlanta. His firm oversees about $48 billion. “The market does look a bit extended so it wouldn’t surprise me if we saw some near-term pullback.”
Data today showed consumer confidence in the U.S. dropped in October to a 10-month low, indicating the reopening of the federal government failed to reassure households. The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan final consumer sentiment index for October decreased to 73.2 from 77.5 the prior month. The median estimate in a Bloomberg survey called for a decline to 75 compared with a preliminary reading of 75.2.
Orders for U.S. durable goods rose in September by the most in three months as stronger demand for commercial and military aircraft outweighed a drop in business equipment.
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