North American stocks hit record highs on Thursday as Middle East tensions eased, optimism about a U.S.-China trade deal firmed and several brokerages boosted price targets on high-profile companies.
The Dow Jones was up 234.14 points to 28,979.23, S&P 500 rose 20.79 to 3.273.84 and Nasdaq was up 78.52 to 9,207.76 by midday.
Canada’s main stock index also hit a record high.
The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index rose as much as 0.4 per cent to a record high of 17,243.680.
Investors snapped up market heavyweights including Apple Inc , Microsoft Corp, Amazon.com Inc, Alphabet Inc and Facebook Inc, lifting their shares between 0.9 per cent and 2.0 per cent.
Apple gained on twin support from data showing iPhone sales jumped more than 18 per cent in China in December, as well as a price target hike by Jefferies on expectations of a strong finish to 2019.
Cowen Equity Research raised its price target on Alphabet, Facebook, and Twitter Inc after its survey of U.S. ad buyers showed upbeat spending in 2020. Technology stocks rose 1 per cent, the most among the major S&P sectors.
After a wobbly start to the new year on fears of an all-out conflict in the Middle East, nerves eased as Washington and Tehran looked to defuse the crisis after Iran’s retaliatory attack following the U.S. killing of a top Iranian general.
In another support to stocks, China’s commerce ministry said Vice Premier Liu He will sign a Phase 1 deal in Washington next week.
“The fear of a new Middle East war was taken off the table and the assertion that China is going to ink a deal with America kind of gives a path to growth globally,” said Kim Forrest, chief investment officer at Bokeh Capital Partners in Pittsburgh.
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“And it’s January — people tend to put money into the market and that tends to drive it up.”
Among the weak spots was the department store operator Kohl’s Corp, which slid 9.2 per cent after reporting lower holiday season sales.
Smaller rival J.C. Penney Co Inc dropped 10.8 per cent after disappointing same-store sales numbers.
With the fourth-quarter earnings season kicking off next week, analysts expect profits for S&P 500 companies to drop 0.6 per cent in their second consecutive quarterly decline, according to Refinitiv IBES data.
Advancing issues outnumbered decliners for a 1.39-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and a 1.68-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.
The S&P index recorded 67 new 52-week highs and no new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 129 new highs and 8 new lows.
© Thomson Reuters 2020