Nasdaq stars as stocks start 2018 with new highs

NEW YORK – The new year already has something in common with the one just ended: new record closes on Wall Street. Trading on Tuesday finished with the Nasdaq Composite ending above 7,000 for the first time ever, at 7,007. The S&P 500 also notched its latest record close, at 2,696.

The Nasdaq composite jumped 104 points, or 1.5 percent. The tech-heavy index reached its last major milestone less than nine months ago when it crossed the 6,000 mark in April

The S&P 500 index rose 22 points, or 0.8 percent. And the Dow Jones industrial average climbed 105 points, or 0.4 percent, to end at 24,824. The Russell 2000 index, which consists of smaller company stocks, gained 15 points, or 0.9 percent, to close at 1,550.

Technology and health care companies jumped, and energy companies, which struggled in 2017, also climbed higher. Bond yields also rose, while high-dividend companies sank.

Facebook (FB) rose $4.96, or 2.8 percent, to end at $181.42, and graphics chipmaker Nvidia (NVDA) advanced $5.85, or 3 percent, to $199.35, as technology companies climbed further. The technology sector of the S&P 500 surged almost 37 percent last year as big names including Facebook, Apple (AAPL) and Microsoft (MSFT) reached all-time highs

Drug and medical device companies led the health care sector higher. Hepatitis C and HIV drugmaker Gilead Sciences (GILD) gained $2.46, or 3.4 percent, to $74.10. Abbott Laboratories (ABT), which sells medications, infant formula and medical devices, picked up $1.69, or 3 percent, to $58.79, and Baxter International (BAX) gained $2.45, or 3.8 percent, to $67.09.

Retailers including Amazon (AMZN), Target (TGT) and Kohl’s (KSS) also fared well. Early indications suggest shoppers had a busy holiday season, and investors will look for confirmation of those reports in the weeks to come.

“We may have all made New Year’s Resolutions, but they don’t change what we do from day to day,” said Kate Warne, an investment strategist for Edward Jones.

She said it looks like the global economy will keep growing, and businesses and consumers around the world will continue to spend money because interest rates are low, and governments in areas that were hit hard by the Great Recession are more willing to spend.

Bond prices slid. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.46 percent from 2.41 percent. The yield on 2-year note rose to 1.92 percent from 1.89 percent.

The increase in bond yields sent high-dividend stocks like utilities, household goods makers and real estate companies lower. Higher bond yields make those stocks less appealing to investors seeking income.

Bitcoin rose after The Wall Street Journal reported that the venture capital firm Founders Fund, co-founded by Peter Thiel, bought around $15 million in bitcoin in mid-2017. The report cited anonymous sources. The digital currency rose 11.9 percent to $15,010, according to Coindesk. Thiel did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Benchmark U.S. crude fell 5 cents to $60.37 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oil, fell 30 cents to $66.57 barrel in London. A rally late in the year sent crude oil to its highest price since June 2015.

Natural gas futures climbed 10 cents, or 3.5 percent, to $3.06 per 1,000 cubic feet. Natural gas is mostly used to heat homes and demand often rises in frigid weather.

Wholesale gasoline fell 3 cents to $1.76 a gallon. Heating oil declined 1 cent to $2.06 a gallon.

Gold rose $6.80 to $1,316.10 an ounce. Silver rose 6 cents to $17.21 an ounce. Copper lost 2 cents to $3.28 a pound.

The dollar fell to 112.27 yen from 112.64 yen. The euro rose to $1.2055 from $1.2012. The dollar slipped steadily in 2017. The improved global economy was responsible for much of that decline, however, and the weaker dollar makes U.S. exports less expensive in other markets.

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