Year ends with new record highs

News of rising consumer confidence and home prices has helped boost the Dow and S&P 500 to their highest ever levels today.

It’s been a year fraught with fiscal perils for the US economy, with wrangles in Washington that caused a government shutdown and threatened a debt default, but the stock market’s rise has been inexorable, barely impeded by the sporadic obstacles in its path, and now on the final day of the year the S&P 500 is set to complete its best yearly performance in 16 years.

Whichever way you slice it, the rise and rise of both the Dow and the S&P this year has been quite remarkable, with both indices hitting new intraday records in today’s trading and the S&P on course for gains of 29% for the year.

Upbeat economic reports today have helped keep the rally bubbling along, with the Case-Shiller home price index climbing 1.0% in October and consumer confidence jumping this month. US house prices have increased 13.6% from October 2012, according to the Case-Shiller report, while the conference board’s consumer confidence index leapt to a reading of 78.1 from the 72.0 recorded last month. Both results beat expectations, and the latter raises hopes of a bumper Christmas shopping season for retailers, which could accordingly swell GDP in the final quarter.

By early afternoon in New York, the Dow Jones had advanced from yesterday’s record closing level to 16,545, a gain of 0.25% or 40 points, while the S&P 500 added 0.29% to 1846.5.

With just a few hours to the close on Wall Street, things look on track for a rosy finish to a rosy year, leaving us well set for 2014.

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