Nasdaq Sets All-Time High

Markets Reuters

The Nasdaq Composite, the U.S. market index most closely associated with technology stocks, closed at an all-time high on Thursday, surpassing a 2000 record set just before the dotcom crash.

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Its record close of 5,056.06 capped a slow, unsteady climb from a 2002 low of 1,114.11 that spanned a recession, the rise of biotech and social media, and the explosive growth of mobile phones that has helped make Apple the most valuable company in the United States.

The Nasdaq jumped as high as 5,073.091 on Thursday, led by shares of Apple, which has been among the biggest positive influences on the index in recent years. The index's last record close of 5,048.62 was hit on March 10, 2000.

The S&P 500 set an intraday high but closed shy of a new record.

Rapid growth in biotechnology companies such as Gilead and social media firms like Facebook, driven by the popularity of mobile computing, also helped lift the Nasdaq to its current levels.

Strategists say there is still room for the Nasdaq to rise.

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"Now that it's making a new high, I don't think it's just going to stop. It has the potential to go up, absent some external event that I can't predict. I think the companies look as though they ought to power through this environment," said Walter Price, senior portfolio manager and managing director of the AllianzGI Global Technology fund in San Francisco.

In 2000, "a lot of the high-growth companies were selling at 200 or 300 times next year's earnings. This is nothing like that. This is a whole different world versus 2000."

On Thursday, shares of Gilead were up 1 percent at $105.21, while Facebook, which late Wednesday posted quarterly revenue that missed analysts estimates, was down 2.6 percent at $82.41.

Shares of Apple were up 0.8 percent at $129.67, while Google was up 1.5 percent at $557.46. They are the two top components by market cap in the Nasdaq. Microsoft, which was the top component in March 2000, is now third, followed by Facebook.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 20.42 points, or 0.11 percent, to 18,058.69, the S&P 500 gained 4.97 points, or 0.24 percent, to 2,112.93 and the Nasdaq Composite added 20.89 points, or 0.41 percent, to 5,056.06.

The Nasdaq lost 78.4 percent of its value from the 2000 peak to its 2002 low 31 months later. From the March 2009 trough to today's record, the index gained 300 percent.

Stephen Massocca, chief investment officer at Wedbush Equity Management LLC in San Francisco, cautioned that social media stocks within the sector will likely tumble eventually. "I don't know when it's going to end but I know how it’s going to end badly," Massocca said.

Massocca referred to the dramatic rise of the Global X Social Media index ETF, which was down 0.4 percent on Thursday but is up about 15 percent for the year so far.

The Nasdaq Composite's market capitalization is $8.2 trillion, compared with a $19.5 trillion market cap for the S&P 500, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Though the Nasdaq is heavily associated with technology, the S&P 500 technology sector is actually down about 21 percent since March 10, 2000, according to S&P-Dow Jones Indices analyst Howard Silverblatt.

On Thursday, eight of the 10 major S&P sectors were higher.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by 2,039 to 956, for a 2.13-to-1 ratio on the upside; on the Nasdaq, 1,659 issues rose and 1,061 fell, for a 1.56-to-1 ratio favoring advancers.

(By Caroline Valetkevitch; Additional reporting by Tanya Agrawal, David Randall, Sinead Carew and Rodrigo Campos; Editing by Savio D'Souza and Nick Zieminski)