Stocks Keep Rolling for Another Weekly Gain

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Stocks closed broadly if modestly higher Friday on light volume as traders avoided making any big bets ahead of a long holiday weekend. The equity markets closed up for the third straight day and extended their winning ways to a third consecutive week.

The blue-chip Dow Jones Industrial Average ($INDU) rose 73 points, or 0.6%, to close at 12,391. The broader S&P 500 ($INX) gained 3 points, or 0.2%, to finish at 1,343. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite ($COMPX) added 2 points, or 0.1%, to close at 2,834.

A dearth of economic news Friday and just a smattering of earnings helped keep market action muted. Caterpillar (CAT) helped boost the Dow after the heavy-equipment maker said machinery sales through dealers accelerated during the three months ended January. Intuit (INTU), maker of TurboTax software, saw it shares jump after lifting its earnings outlook late Thursday. But shares in Campbell Soup Co. (CPB) declined after the food company disappointed investors with a decrease in fourth-quarter profit and a cut to its earnings outlook.

Marking Time Ahead of the G-20

Global markets mostly shrugged off another rate hike in China, the nation that has been driving the world's economic recovery and is looking to cool down its own torrid pace of growth. China's central bank said it will raise banks' reserve requirements for the second time this year in order to curb inflation. However, the hike was widely expected after China reported a rise in consumer prices earlier this week.

Markets also marked time ahead of the latest meeting of the G-20. Finance chiefs from the world's 20 industrialized and fastest-developing nations will wrestle over how to address global trade imbalances in Paris this weekend. The last G-20 meeting in November ended without making any progress on long-standing currency and trade disputes.

In all, Friday capped another remarkable week for the markets. The Dow gained 0.9% over the last five sessions, while the S&P closed up 1%, and the Nasdaq rose 0.7%. For the year-to-date, the Dow is up 7%, the S&P is up 6.7% and the Nasdaq has added 6.8%.

Even more impressive, tracing back to start of the rally in late August, the Dow is up 24%, the broader S&P has added 28% and the Nasdaq has gained 34% in less than six months (see chart).



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