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US: S&P 500 hits record high

Zareena Sayeedova, Leading Analyst, Global Markets (Finam)

On Thursday, March 28, US equities chalked up modest gains, while the Standard & Poor's 500 Index finally managed to set a new all-time high of 1,565.15 and close 4 points above this mark. Buying sentiment was sparked by GDP numbers released stateside, with the nation’s gross domestic product, in line with final estimates, being revised to 0.4% in Q4 compared to the previous estimate of 0.1%. At the same time, analysts had, on average, anticipated growth of 0.5%. Other economic data released on Thursday left much to be desired. The number of first-time applications for unemployment benefits rose 16,000 to 357,000, surpassing expectations, while the Chicago PMI in March equaled just 52.4, or over 4 points below median forecasts.

The external news flow for US trading was mixed as Asian equities broadly retreated, while European plays advanced on an unexpected increase in German retail sales and after Cypriot banks reopened calmly after a long hiatus.

As for the benchmarks, the Dow Jones Industrial Average ticked up 0.36% to end at 14,578.54, the Standard & Poor's 500 Index edged up 0.41% to 1,569.19 and the technology-focused Nasdaq Composite advanced 0.34% to close at 3,267.52.

In commodities, NYMEX light, sweet crude for May delivery closed up 0.7% at USD 97.23/bbl, while COMEX gold for April delivery fell 0.7% to USD 1,594.80/oz. In FX markets, the dollar retreated versus the euro, the yen and the pound.

In the blue-chip sector, only a few stocks closed lower, including JP Morgan, Bank of America and Boeing. Among the gainers, HP, IBM and UnitedHealth added over 1%.

All the S&P 500 Index’s 10 industry groups registered advances, led by healthcare and public utilities.

The Ugg-brand owner Deckers Outdoor surged 6% to USD 55.69 after Jefferies analysts raised their target price on the stock from USD 65 to USD 100.

PVH, the owner of the renowned fashion brand Tommy Hilfiger, declined 5.3% after unveiling FY13 guidance that disappointed investors, with EPS projected at USD 7.00, while Wall Street forecasts roughly USD 7.41.

Biotech Biogen Idec jumped 5.4% on news FDA had approved the company’s drug Tecfidera to treat multiple sclerosis. Based on some estimates, over time this medicine will be able to generate over USD 3 bn in earnings a year.

McGraw-Hill shares grew 3.2% after the company announced a USD 500 mn stock buyback.

In other news, iron ore supplier Cliffs Natural Resources plummeted 8.4% after negative comments from analysts at Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse Group.