Stock Markets Continue March Into Record Territory

By Randy Hall | July 7, 2008 | 8:23 PM EDT

( - The three main U.S. markets ended the trading week on Friday with one average at a record high, another near its record high, and the third at its highest point in more than six years.

The Dow Jones industrial average climbed 79.81 points to reach a new peak of 13,556.53. Meanwhile, the Nasdaq composite closed the day up 19.07 at 2,558.45, and the S&P 500 index gained 10.00 points to end the week at 1,522.75, just five points below its all-time high in March 2000.

Also, the Dow Jones, S&P 500 and Nasdaq markets all ended the week higher. It was the seventh straight week of gains for the markets and their best run in over three years.

Friday's gains came in a rebound from Thursday's trading, in which all three indexes lost ground due to record gasoline prices and mixed economic news.

Even before the final day of the trading week got underway, retailers J.C. Penney Co., Kohl's Corp. and Nordstrom, Inc., each announced earnings that topped Wall Street analysts' expectations.

Analysts also came up short regarding the preliminary Reuters/University of Michigan index of consumer sentiment for May, which came in at 88.7 instead of officials' prediction that the reading would be unchanged from April at 87.1.

Finally, a new spate of corporate mergers added fuel to the markets' fire. The Wall Street Journal reported that GE is closing a deal to sell its plastics division to a Saudi industrial giant for $11 billion, and Microsoft said it would buy online advertising firm aQuantive, Inc., for about $6 billion in cash.

"People have been waiting for a pullback for a long time," Tony Dwyer, equity market strategist at FTN Midwest Research, told CNN. "But as each day goes by, the backdrop remains positive and valuations are still historically low."

Looking to the future, Dwyer said: "I think we're going to see a continuation of the market moving methodically higher."

Even though the top U.S. indexes all gained ground on Friday, overseas markets were mixed. While Japan's Nikkei stock average slid 0.57 percent, Britain's FTSE 100 climbed 0.88 percent, France's CAC-40 gained 1.23 percent, and Germany's DAX index rose 1.36 percent.

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