S&P 500 Extends Record Run

By Akane Otani and Mike BirdFeaturesDow Jones Newswires

The S&P 500 inched higher Monday, extending this year's run of records.

Stocks have begun 2018 on an upbeat note, buoyed by investors' optimism over the global economy and bets that central banks are unlikely to pressure markets by raising interest rates faster than expected.

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Many investors and analysts believe the rally will continue, especially if the economy continues to grow at what they describe as an ideal pace: fast enough to support corporate earnings growth but slow enough to keep the Federal Reserve from withdrawing stimulus too quickly.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 12.87 points, or less than 0.1%, to 25283.00. The S&P 500 rose 4.56 points, or 0.2%, to 2747.71 and the Nasdaq Composite added 20.83 points, or 0.3%, to 7157.39, with both indexes posting their fifth consecutive closing record.

Corporate news drove swings in individual stocks Monday.

Kohl's shares jumped $2.54, or 4.7%, to $56.90 after the retailer boosted its annual profit outlook and said its comparable sales jumped over the holidays, thanks to stronger store traffic.

Shares of Crocs, which raised its guidance for fourth-quarter revenue, added 1.03, or 8.4%, to 13.23.

Meanwhile, GoPro shares fell 96 cents, or 13%, to 6.56 after the company said its fourth-quarter revenue would come in below what it had previously expected and that it would cut about 20% of its workforce.

Shares of Nvidia climbed 6.60, or 3.1%, to 222.00 after it said Uber and Volkswagen would use its artificial-intelligence technology in upcoming projects.

Analysts say they will be closely watching companies' forecasts for the year as the earnings season begins in earnest later this month.

"This is when the accounting department really needs to put pen to paper in terms of what tax reform means for them," said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at B. Riley FBR.

Goldman Sachs analysts estimate the recently passed U.S. tax overhaul bill, which will reduce the corporate tax rate to its lowest point since 1939, could give a 5% boost to per-share earnings for the S&P 500 in 2018.

That could lend additional fuel to a stock rally that has repeatedly wrong-footed skeptics. The S&P 500, Dow industrials and Nasdaq closed out 2017 with their biggest yearly gains since 2013.

At the same time, valuations have crept higher, leading many analysts to say U.S. stocks look pricey relative to their international counterparts.

"The critical signpoint for the earnings season will be where companies plan to use their cash and where their guidance ends up," Mr. Hogan said.

Signs that companies are investing in their businesses -- rather than repurchasing shares, which some see as less helpful in driving long-term profitability -- could help give stocks a boost, he added.

Elsewhere, the Stoxx Europe 600 rose 0.3% on Monday, lifted by gains in shares of basic-resources companies.

Solid economic data also helped pull European stocks higher, analysts said.

The European Commission's economic sentiment indicator for the European Union last month reached its highest level since August 2000.

In Asia, stocks mostly rose, with Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index climbing 0.3% and notching its 10th consecutive session of gains -- the longest such streak since October 2012.

The Shanghai Composite added 0.5%, its seventh consecutive advance, while Japanese markets were closed for a holiday.

Write to Akane Otani at akane.otani@wsj.com and Mike Bird at Mike.Bird@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 08, 2018 17:20 ET (22:20 GMT)