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VOL. 41 | NO. 47 | Friday, November 24, 2017

Banks power solid gains for US stocks, more record highs

The Associated Press

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Banks led a broad rally in U.S. stocks Tuesday, lifting the market to a milestone-shattering finish.

Gains by industrial stocks, retailers and health care companies also helped drive the major stock indexes to record highs.

Investors were encouraged by news that a Senate committee cleared the way for a tax reform bill to go before the full Senate. Financial stocks also got a boost from Federal Reserve chair nominee Jerome Powell, who told another Senate committee that the Fed would consider easing up on bank regulations.

Encouraging economic data and the latest batch of company earnings and deal news also helped drive the rally, which gave the Standard & Poor's 500 index its best day since Sept. 11.

"When you're in a market where you're at new highs with the averages, in theory, nobody has losses," said Mark Chaikin, founder of Chaikin Analytics. "Given seasonal patterns, I expect that we'll see the market strong into year-end."

The S&P 500 index rose 25.62 points, or 1 percent, to 2,627.04. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 255.93 points, or 1.1 percent, to 23,836.71. The Nasdaq composite added 33.84 points, or 0.5 percent, to 6,912.36. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks picked up 23.12 points, or 1.5 percent, to 1,536.43.

Gainers outnumbered decliners more than 2 to 1 on the New York Stock Exchange.

Early on, investors had their eye on Washington, where the Senate Budget Committee weighed the chamber's version of a sweeping tax bill. The committee voted 12-11 to pass the Republican tax plan late Tuesday afternoon. The sweeping measure, which would lower corporate tax rates, now advances to the full Senate. GOP leaders hope to have the Senate take it up later this week.

Another panel, the Senate Banking Committee, drew the spotlight early on as it heard testimony from Powell, who has been a member of the Fed's board since 2012 and is expected to win confirmation to succeed Janet Yellen.

In written testimony released before the start of the hearing, Powell said that, if confirmed as the next Fed chairman, he expected the central bank to continue raising interest rates gradually.

Powell also said that, under his leadership, the Fed would consider ways to ease the regulatory burdens on banks while preserving the key reforms Congress passed to try to prevent another financial crisis.

"Powell's testimony basically said that he's a Janet Yellen on steroids," said Chaikin. "His testimony gave the market a lot of confidence."

Banks and other financial stocks had their best day since March. The sector is up 15.2 percent this year.

JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America notched their gains since April. Shares in JPMorgan rose $3.43, or 3.5 percent, to $101.36. Bank of America added $1.05, or 3.9 percent, to $27.64.

Investors also got a double dose of encouraging data on the U.S. economy Tuesday.

The Conference Board said that its consumer confidence index rose this month to its highest level since November 2000. Economic growth clocked at a healthy 3 percent annual pace in the third quarter, and the unemployment rate has fallen to a 17-year low of 4.1 percent.

A separate index showed U.S. home prices rose at the fastest pace in more than three years in September, fueled by a record-low supply of homes for sale. Homebuilder shares rose, led by KB Home, which gained $1.17, or 4.1 percent, to $30.

The latest corporate deal news also moved the market.

Buffalo Wild Wings jumped 6.3 percent after it agreed to be acquired by Arby's for $157 a share. Buffalo was at $117.25 a share before reports about a possible deal emerged two weeks ago. The stock added $9.20 to $155.60.

Emerson Electric rose 3.7 percent after the company withdrew its bid for Rockwell Automation. Emerson shares climbed $2.27 to $64.15. Rockwell added $6.09, or 3.2 percent, to $197.13.

Companies with strong quarterly results or outlooks also got a lift.

Thor Industries surged 13.3 percent after the RV maker reported quarterly earnings that were much higher than analysts were expecting. The stock gained $18.12 to $154.37. Rival Winnebago Industries rose $3.95, or 7.8 percent, to $54.60.

Tech Data climbed 10.2 percent after the information technology products company posted better-than-expected third quarter results and gave strong fourth-quarter forecasts. The stock picked up $9.54 to $102.76.

Real estate sector companies were the only laggard. Public Storage fell $5.50, or 2.6 percent, to $209.43.

Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 2.34 from 2.35 percent late Monday.

Benchmark U.S. crude dropped 12 cents to settle at $57.99 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, used to price international oils, declined 23 cents to close at $63.61. Wholesale gasoline fell 2 cents to $1.77 a gallon.

In other energy futures trading, heating oil was little changed at $1.95 a gallon. Natural gas rose 15 cents, or 5 percent, to $3.07 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Gold inched up 50 cents to $1,294.90 an ounce. Silver fell 20 cents to $16.82 an ounce. Copper slid 6 cents to $3.07 a pound.

The dollar rose to 111.55 yen from 111.01 yen on Monday. The euro weakened to $1.1847 from $1.1899.

Major stock indexes in Europe rose following a downbeat day in Asia.

Germany's DAX added 0.5 percent, while France's CAC 40 gained 0.6 percent. Britain's FTSE 100 rose 1 percent.

In Asia, Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng were little changed. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 lost nearly 0.1 percent. South Korea's Kospi added 0.3 percent. Shares in Southeast Asia were mixed.

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