Dow closes above 24,000 for first time

Stocks rose to record levels Thursday prompting President Trump to tweet a jab at Hillary Clinton's presidential loss. (Nov. 30)

The Dow surged 332 points and passed another milestone by topping 24,000 on Thursday, adding to the sizable gains of stock investors in 2017.

At its high point, the average for blue-chip stocks was up as much as 387 points at a ntraday record of 24,327.82.

The Dow Jones industrial average's latest 1,000-point milestone was powered by just a handful of stocks. 3M, the maker of Post-It notes and Scotch tape accounted for more than 17% of the Dow's point gain in its sprint to 24,000, according to S&P Dow Jones Indices data through Nov. 29. And the five best performers, which include managed-care provider UnitedHealth Group, Home Depot, Walmart and Apple, accounted for nearly two-thirds of the gains.

The Dow finished the day 331.67 points higher, or 1.4%, at 24,272.35 -- its 63rd record high of 2017. It was the Dow's best day of the year and biggest one-day point gain since November 2016.

The stock market rally of 2017, which has pushed the Dow up nearly 23%, has been fueled by a global economic recovery that has been a boon for corporate profits and lifted consumer confidence to its highest levels since 2000.

Rising hopes for passage of tax cut legislation in Washington, D.C., has also lifted the mood of investors. Lower tax rates for businesses are seen as boosting corporate sales and profits.

"Stocks have soared this year, lifted by the strong winds of improving global growth, optimism about pro-growth U.S. policies and still-low interest rates," says Kate Warne, investment strategist at St. Louis-based Edward Jones. 

A 401(k) investor with $100,000 invested in the Dow at the start of 2017 now has an estimated account balance of $123,000. 

It took the Dow 43 calendar days to climb from 23,000 to 24,000, its fastest 1,000-point move since the 35 days it took earlier this year to go from 20,000 to 21,000, S&P Dow Jones Indices data show. Each 1,000-point jump equates to a smaller percentage gain as the Dow's price grows larger. 

From today's close, it will take a rise of 3% for the Dow to get to the next big milestone: Dow 25K.

Getting there before New Year's Day isn't out of the question, says Joe Quinlan, chief market strategist at U.S. Trust in New York.

"Dow 25K is not much of stretch from current levels," says Quinlan. "We could hit that mark by the end of the year."

The Dow isn't the only U.S. stock index to post big gains this year. The rally has been broad. It has pushed the Standard & Poor's 500 up more than 18%, the technology-dominated Nasdaq up nearly 28% and the small-company Russell 2000 up nearly 14%.

The appreciation of all types and sizes of stocks is a sign of market strength, says Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at BMO Private Bank in Chicago.  

"It’s good news," says Ablin. "The most recent market move has been fueled by a growing sense that economic activity will broaden."

So how high can the Dow go?

"Who knows?" says Ablin. "If tax reform fuels economic activity, the market can churn higher as long as inflation remains at bay."

However, Wall Street pros are closely watching to see if there is a shift in investor preference away from top-performing tech stocks to other parts of the market that have not gone up as much. 

The Nasdaq, which has delivered the biggest gains of all the major U.S. stock indexes in 2017, has posted lower returns than the other indexes the past two trading sessions. That performance shift could suggest that investors may be reducing their tech holdings and investing the proceeds in other parts of the market. 

"The week has again been characterized by a continued bid for the impoverished and neglected corners of the market," says Chris Verrone, a market analyst at New York-based research firm Strategas Research Partners.

© 2017 USATODAY.COM


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