S&P 500 closes at record again; financials, Apple lead

NEW YORK Tue May 7, 2013 4:50am IST

Traders work on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange, May 1, 2013. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Traders work on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange, May 1, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Brendan McDermid

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - The S&P 500 closed at another record high, pushing further above 1,600 as financial shares led the way after Bank of America's settlement with MBIA.

Apple's advance helped lift both the S&P and the Nasdaq.

Bank of America (BAC.N) said it would settle claims with MBIA (MBI.N) for $1.6 billion, lifting shares of both companies as well as the S&P financial sector Index .SPSY, which gained 1 percent. MBIA shares jumped 45.4 percent to $14.29 and Bank of America shares rose 5.2 percent to $12.88.

The day's gains followed a strong run in stocks since the start of the year. Supportive monetary policies that have kept interest rates low as well as solid earnings have helped to keep the market up. The S&P 500 has gained 13.4 percent since December 31.

"As long as you continue to have decent earnings reports and the support from central banks around the world providing liquidity, it's going to be hard to derail this market, at least in the short term," said Michael James, managing director of equity trading at Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles.

Apple shares (AAPL.O) were also among the top gainers after Barclays raised its price target on the stock. Apple shares shot up 2.4 percent to $460.71, leading both the Nasdaq composite index and the benchmark S&P 500 higher.

The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI dipped 5.07 points, or 0.03 percent, to 14,968.89 at the close. But the Standard & Poor's 500 Index .SPX inched up 3.08 points, or 0.19 percent, to finish at a record 1,617.50. The Nasdaq Composite Index .IXIC gained 14.34 points, or 0.42 percent, to close at 3,392.97.

During the session, the S&P 500 also reached an all-time intraday high of 1,619.77.

Although weak economic data from the euro zone and China has caused concerns over the global growth outlook, Friday's stronger-than-expected U.S. payrolls report fueled the gains that drove both the Dow and the S&P 500 to record levels.

Warren Buffett said on Monday that low interest rates have made bonds "terrible" investments, but stocks are "reasonably priced," and he continues to shy away from sectors such as media, where he cannot predict which will thrive in the long run.

But some analysts suspect the rally has little strength to keep going on.

The market "is discounting a tremendous amount of good news now, which I don't think is going to be substantiated, and I don't think it's allowing for any possibility of bad news," said Uri Landesman, president of Platinum Partners in New York.

Earnings have been mostly higher than expected, with 68.5 percent of companies surpassing estimates so far. At the same time, second-quarter estimates have fallen as outlooks remain more negative than positive.

Among Monday's reports, Tyson Foods Inc (TSN.N) posted a weaker-than-expected quarterly profit and cut its full-year sales forecast. Its shares declined 3.3 percent to $24.10.

In contrast, Humana Inc (HUM.N) jumped 2.1 percent to $75.49 as one of the S&P 500's biggest percentage gainers. JPMorgan upgraded the stock to "overweight."

But Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N) shares slid 1.3 percent to $84.68, weighing on the blue-chip Dow average.

GM's stock also declined. The U.S. Treasury said it will begin another round of sales of General Motors (GM.N) stock acquired during the government's bailout of the auto sector. GM shares slipped 0.9 percent to $31.82.

Volume was roughly 5.3 billion shares traded on the New York Stock Exchange, the Nasdaq and the NYSE MKT, below the average daily closing volume of about 6.4 billion this year.

Advancers outpaced decliners on both the NYSE and the Nasdaq by a ratio of about 3 to 2.

(Editing by Kenneth Barry, Nick Zieminski and Jan Paschal)

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