S&P 500 Notches 5th Consecutive Record Close

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Shaking off some initial apprehension, U.S. stocks landed solidly in the green on Wednesday, leaving the S&P 500 with its first five-day string of record closes since the Clinton Administration.

Today's Markets 

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 48.92 points, or 0.32%, to 15105.12, the S&P 500 climbed 6.73 points, or 0.41%, to 1632.69 and the Nasdaq Composite advanced 16.64 points, or 0.49%, to 3413.27.

The modest rally also carried the Dow further above the 15000 mark, just a day after the blue-chip index closed above that level for the first time on record. The index has now rallied eight of the past 10 sessions and celebrated 17 record closes so far this year.

Both the Nasdaq and S&P 500 notched their fifth consecutive daily gain, with the latter finishing at a record for the fifth day in a row, the longest such streak since May 1998.

China saw its exports surge 14.7% in April on a year-to-year basis, with imports soaring 16.8%. That left the country's trade surplus at $18.2 billion, considerably better than expectations of $15.1 billion. The data helped ease concerns that the world's second-biggest economy is in for a soft landing. However, economists generally struck a cautious tone in regard to the report.

"We believe the strong trade growth is not indicative of a growth recovery. Instead, it may have reflected continued capital inflows in April," Zhiwei Zhang, an economist at Nomura, a Japan-based bank wrote to clients of the report.

German industrial production also came in considerably stronger than expectations. Europe's economic powerhouse saw its factory output rev up by 1.2% in March from April, compared to expectations of a 0.1% slump.

Thomas Harjes, an economist at UK-based Barclays, wrote to clients that the data "point to stronger industrial activity ahead." Harjes noted, however, that the situation there remains fragile.

"The positive momentum is still tentative and the latest (April) survey results (IFO/PMIs) signal some downside risk," he wrote.

Also on the economic front, Goldman Sachs Chief U.S. Economist Jan Hatzius weighed in on the state of the U.S. economy in a note to the investment-banking giant's clients late Tuesday. He said growth is stabilizing at a lower pace than it did in the first part of 2013, but then it is expected to heat up solidly next year. Hatzius also said he expects the Federal Reserve to begin tapering its vast quantitative easing program late this year, or early next year.

Elsewhere, McDonald's (NYSE:MCD), the world's biggest burger chain, said its same-store sales fell 0.6% in April, which was slightly steeper than the 0.48% Wall Street anticipated. Delta Air Lines (NYSE:DAL) initiated a quarterly dividend of six cents a share, and authorized a $500 million share buyback plan.

On the M&A front, Trulia (NASDAQ:TRLA) inked a deal to acquire real-estate software maker Market Leader (NASDAQ:LEDR) in a deal valued at $355 million. Also, Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO) has reportedly held preliminary meetings with top execs at Hulu, signaling possible interest in acquiring the premium video site.

In metals, gold rallied $24.90, or 1.72%, to $1,473.90 a troy ounce. Energy futures were mixed. U.S. crude oil $1.00, or 1.05%, to $96.62 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline dipped 0.72% to $2.85 a gallon.

Foreign Markets

The Euro Stoxx 50 rose 0.56% to 2784.62, the English FTSE 100 gained 0.40% to 6583.48 and the German DAX jumped 0.83% to 8249.71.

In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 rallied 0.74% to 14286 and the Chinese Hang Seng advanced 0.86% to 23244.