Stocks end slightly higher at record levels, extending fall rally; Retail stocks climb



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NEW YORK — The stock market eked out another record close Monday as investors remained confident that stimulus from central banks would revive global growth. Retail stocks rose ahead of the crucial holiday season.

Stocks have surged following a slump that lasted from mid-September to mid-October. The rally has been driven by optimism that central banks in Europe, China and Japan will invigorate economic growth outside the U.S.

"You clearly have momentum favoring stocks right now," said Russ Koesterich, chief investment strategist at Blackrock.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 5.91 points, or 0.3 percent, to 2,069.41. The index has climbed for seven of the last eight days and is at an all-time high, having gained almost 12 percent this year.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 7.84 points, less than 0.1 percent, to 17,817.90. The Nasdaq composite gained 41.92 points, or 0.9 percent, to 4,754.89.

On Monday, the gains were led by the so-called consumer discretionary sector, which includes retailers such as Coach, Urban Outfitters and Gap. These stocks should benefit most if the consumers go on a spending spree this holiday season.

Coach rose 95 cents, or 2.6 percent, to $37.41 as analysts at Stifel reiterated their belief that the maker of luxury clothing and accessories is "doing the right things to reinvigorate the brand." The analysts believe that the stock's price could climb as high as $47. The stock is down 32 percent for the year.

Telecommunications stocks were among the day's biggest losers. Verizon and AT&T slumped after analysts at Citigroup published a gloomy review of the sector and predicted a tough year ahead for the two phone giants.

Verizon fell 71 cents, or 1.4 percent, to $49.50. Citigroup cut its outlook on the stock to "neutral," predicting that the company's earnings will come in lower than most Wall Street analysts expect. Revenue growth at the big telecommunication companies could crimped by more intense competition and higher prices for wireless spectrum. AT&T dropped 58 cents, or 1.6 percent, to $34.70.

Stocks were still riding momentum from Friday, when China's central bank lowered a key interest rate and European Central Bank President Mario Draghi said he was willing to step up the bank's efforts to stimulate the region's struggling economy.

Oil fell ahead of a crucial meeting in Vienna on Thursday of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. Traders will be looking for a possible agreement to cut production to shore up prices. The price of crude has tumbled 26 percent since June as producers kept output stable while demand in Europe and other markets weakened.

Benchmark U.S. crude fell 73 cents, or 1 percent, to $75.78 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, fell 68 cents to close at $79.68 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

In other energy futures trading on the NYMEX, wholesale gasoline fell 2.3 cents to $2.033 a gallon, heating oil fell a penny to $2.395 a gallon and natural gas fell 11.5 cents to $4.151 per 1,000 cubic feet.

The slump in energy prices bodes well for the upcoming holiday shopping season, said Jennifer Ellison, a principal of San Francisco-based Bingham, Osborn & Scarborough. She predicts that any money that consumers save at the gas pump is likely to be spent, rather than saved.

The falling price of oil "affects consumers in a lot of different ways, but most importantly you've got more money in your pocket," said Ellison. "That has a big impact especially at a time like holiday season when people are spending anyway."

In U.S. government bond trading, prices edged up. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.30 percent from 2.31 percent on Friday. The dollar resumed its climb against the Japanese yen. The U.S. currency rose to 118.26 yen from 117.79 yen Friday. The euro rose to $1.2439 from $1.2360.

In metals trading, the price of gold fell $2, or 0.2 percent, to $1,195.70 an ounce. Silver dropped 1.9 cents, or 0.1 percent, to $16.38 an ounce. Copper declined 3.2 cents, or 1 percent, to $3 per pound.

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