U.S. stocks brush off year's first wobble, return to records

U.S. stocks brush off year's first wobble, return to records

After rates held steady on Thursday, the Standard & Poor's 500 index marked its seventh gain in the last eight days.

The S&P 500 rose 19.33 points, or 0.7%, to a record 2,767.56.

In markets overseas, Japan's Nikkei 225 fell 0.3 percent, South Korea's Kospi retreated 0.5 percent and Hong Kong's Hang Seng index edged 0.2 percent higher.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 48 points, or 0.2 percent, to 25,331, the Nasdaq composite lost 5 points, or 0.1 percent, to 7,152 and the Russell 2000 index of small-cap stocks was virtually flat.

Retailers led the way after a government report confirmed that the holiday shopping season was a strong one, with retail sales rising 0.4 percent last month following a 0.9 percent surge in November. In contrast, US export prices edged down 0.1 percent in December, after advancing 0.5 percent in November.

Japan's Nikkei 225 fell 0.3 percent to 23,707.31 and South Korea's Kospi retreated 0.6 percent to 2,485.75.

The S&P 500 fell 4 points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,747.

Investors have been preparing for a gradual rise in rates, as the Federal Reserve slowly removes the aid it provided the economy following the Great Recession.

Stocks have been remarkably calm and strong for more than a year.

Optimism about a strengthening global economy and growing corporate profits has helped propel markets even though, relative to earnings, stocks have become more expensive than they've historically been.

But some caution is starting to creep in as prices keep climbing.

"We're not fully invested at this point, but we haven't switched to pure defense yet either", Villere said.

Later this week, companies will begin reporting their results for the last three months of 2017, and investors are waiting to hear what CEOs will say about the tax overhaul's effect on their bottom lines.

The S&P 500 fell 3 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,748.

Campbell Soup fell 3.1 percent.

Among other stocks, Facebook (FB.O) fell 3.5 percent after the company started changing the way it filters posts and videos on News Feed. The changes may mean people spend less time on Facebook, and less advertising revenue for the company. Bank of America rose 1 percent.

Shares of JP Morgan rose 1.1 percent, helping lift the S&P financial index up 0.6 percent, after its fourth-quarter profit beat estimates. Wholesale gasoline rose 1 cent to $1.79 a gallon.

On the economic front, US import prices ticked up 0.1 percent in December, the Labor Department reported Wednesday, following a 0.8-percent rise the previous month.

COMMODITIES: Benchmark U.S. crude oil rose 24 cents to $61.97 per barrel. Brent crude, the worldwide standard, fell 10 cents to $69.10 per barrel in London.

The market's smooth ride upward hit a bump Wednesday when worries rose that a jump in interest rates could derail the ascent.

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