Market Wrap: S&P 500 Sets a Record High

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By Ryan Vlastelica

NEW YORK -- U.S. stocks rose for a fourth straight session on Monday as large-cap technology shares gained and gave an outsized boost to the Dow, though continued weakness in crude oil weighed on the energy sector.

The S&P 500 (^GPSC) ended at a record, though trading was quiet with many market participants out ahead of the upcoming Christmas holiday. About 6 billion shares traded on all U.S. platforms, according to BATS exchange data, compared with the month-to-date average of 7.86 billion.

Tech was the strongest sector of the day, with the S&P information technology sector up 1.1 percent. Intel (INTC) rose 2.3 percent to $37.21, providing the biggest boost to the Dow (^DJI), while IBM (IBM) rose 1.8 percent to $161.44 and Cisco Systems (CSCO) rose 1.6 percent to $28.22. Priceline (PCLN) rose 3.6 percent to $1,149.38.

"I wouldn't put a lot of weight on this week's trading, given year-end maneuvers and how slow it is," said Rex Macey, chief allocation officer at Wilmington Trust Investment Advisors in Atlanta, Georgia. "While I'm comfortable with the level of the broader market, I don't think there are obvious bargains. Some may say oil stocks are bargains now, but it's too soon to say."

Saudi Arabia Maintains Oil Production

Crude oil sank 3.2 percent after Saudi Arabia's powerful oil minister said OPEC would not cut production at any price. The S&P energy index fell 1 percent as one of the day's weakest sectors; Chesapeake Energy (CHK) fell 7.3 percent to $18.42 while Southwestern Energy (SWN) was off 5.5 percent at $29.31.

Crude oil is coming off four straight weeks of declines, and has fallen in 11 of the past 12 completed weeks.

The S&P rose 3.4 percent last week, boosted by a 5 percent jump over three sessions, after the U.S. Federal Reserve said it would take a "patient" approach toward raising interest rates and oil prices appeared to stabilize. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 154.57 points, or 0.87 percent, to 17,959.37, the S&P 500 gained 7.89 points, or 0.38 percent, to 2,078.54 and the Nasdaq Composite (^IXIC) added 16.04 points, or 0.34 percent, to 4,781.42.

Discouraging data on U.S. home sales failed to derail the "Santa" rally, what traders often call a pre-Christmas advance. The National Association of Realtors reported that sales of previously occupied homes fell 6.1 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.93 million. That's the slowest pace in six months.

A Slump and a Surge in Pharmaceuticals

Gilead (GILD) slumped 14 percent to $92.90 as the biggest drag on both the S&P and Nasdaq 100. Express Scripts (ESRX), the nation's largest pharmacy benefit manager, said it would no longer cover Gilead's treatments after it lined up a cheaper price from AbbVie for its newly approved hepatitis C treatment.

Achillion Pharmaceuticals (ACHN) said it would test a combination of two of its experimental hepatitis C drugs which showed promise in separate studies. Shares surged 10 percent to $15.61.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by 1,806 to 1,291, for a 1.40-to-1 ratio on the upside; on the Nasdaq, 1,682 issues rose and 1,072 fell for a 1.57-to-1 ratio favoring advancers.

The benchmark S&P 500 index was posting 73 new 52-week highs and 5 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite was recording 144 new highs and 36 new lows.

What to Watch Tuesday:

  • The government reports the latests on durable goods orders, the gross domestic product and personal income and outlays, all at 8:30 a.m.
  • Sales of new homes are released at 10 a.m.
The Associated Press contributed to this post.
The 10 Best Places to Retire on Social Security Alone
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Market Wrap: S&P 500 Sets a Record High

Senior citizen renters pay a median of $686 monthly to live in Albuquerque. Homeowners age 65 and older pay a median of $1,078 a month if they have a mortgage and just $368 monthly if they have paid off the mortgage. There are six senior centers where people age 50 and older can become members for just $13 a year.

The low housing costs in Texas are drawing people to the state. A home in Austin costs retirees a median of $1,395 monthly with a mortgage and $545 if they own their home debt-free. The median rent for retirees age 65 and older is $887 monthly. Texas doesn't have a state income tax, but it's important to carefully consider the property tax you might face on any home purchase.

If you can tolerate the cold and snowy winters, you'll be rewarded with a very low cost of living. Senior citizens age 65 and older pay just $466 monthly in housing costs if they have paid off their mortgages, $1,009 monthly if they are still paying off their home and $611 in monthly rent. The City of Buffalo also provides a senior discount card that entitles retirees to a percentage off their purchases when they shop at local businesses.

South Carolina residents age 60 and older who are no longer working are eligible for free tuition at the University of South Carolina. Seniors can also get discount tickets to the Riverbanks Zoo and Columbia Museum of Art. Housing remains affordable, costing retirees $1,074 monthly with a mortgage, $367 with a paid-off house or $801 in monthly rent.

This small city is known for its outsized art scene, which includes the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, Grand Rapids Art Museum, Urban Institute of Contemporary Arts and the art competition ArtPrize. Retirees age 65 and older pay just $684 monthly in rent. Older homeowners pay $1,080 monthly with a mortgage and $427 a month if their house is paid off.

Jacksonville offers balmy winters similar to other parts of Florida, but at much more affordable prices. Retirees age 65 and older pay a median rent of just $861 a month. Older homeowners pay a median of $1,247 a month if they have a mortgage, which drops significantly to $405 once they pay off the house. An added bonus: There's no state income tax in Florida.

Pittsburgh has several professional sports teams, noteworthy museums, major colleges and the UPMC-University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, which is ranked 13th in the country in geriatrics. But housing prices remain affordable, costing senior citizens a median of $1,023 monthly with a mortgage, $434 when they have paid off their house or $614 a month in rent. Plus, residents age 65 or over ride free on the bus, T or Monongahela Incline.

The Spokane River flows through downtown Spokane and can be enjoyed at Riverfront Park, one of the city's numerous recreation areas for hiking and biking. Washington state doesn't have an individual income tax, and housing in retirement is affordable, costing just $419 monthly with a paid-off house and $1,139 monthly with a mortgage. The median rent for people age 65 and older is $733 monthly.

Home costs for seniors are $1,115 monthly with a mortgage and $434 a month with a paid-off house, while renters pay a median of $664 monthly in rent. There are also affordable local services to transport retirees to doctor appointments and the grocery store and help with minor home repairs and chores. The Barnes-Jewish Hospital/Washington University is nationally ranked in geriatrics.

Retirees can take in the enormous cactuses at Saguaro National Park, where U.S. citizens age 62 or older can get a lifetime pass to this and other national parks for just $10. Yet this sunny city remains affordable. Monthly rent for people 65 and older is a median of $771. Older homeowners pay $1,095 monthly with a mortgage, but that drops significantly to $366 for people who have paid off their homes. Plus, the state of Arizona doesn't tax Social Security income.


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