S&P 500 index reaches 2,000 milestone

Last Updated Aug 25, 2014 5:30 PM EDT

It's been a bumpy road to 2,000 this summer for the Standard & Poor's 500 index. But the benchmark index hit the milestone on Monday in the first hour of trading as stocks moved higher. Investors shrugged off lackluster data on new home sales and focused instead on the latest round of corporate deals. Burger King soared on news it was in talks to buy Tim Hortons of Canada.

The move above the 2,000-point mark was brief, but the S&P still closed with its second record high in a week at 1998 after gaining 10 points Monday.

"The index number itself is somewhat symbolic," said David Kelley, JPMorgan Funds' chief global strategist. "It's a continuation of what we've seen all year." The index closed above 1,000 points for the first time in February 1998.

It was the latest milestone in a five-year rally for U.S. stocks, which are enjoying a late-summer revival after dipping earlier this month on concerns about rising geopolitical tensions in Russia and the Middle East.

Investors have put aside those concerns for now, focusing instead on the improving outlook for the U.S. economy and the prospect of rising corporate earnings.

On Monday, traders were encouraged by some high-profile corporate deal news, which overshadowed sluggish sales of new homes.

News that Burger King is in talks to acquire doughnut chain Tim Hortons and create a new holding company headquartered in Canada had stocks pointing higher in premarket trading. That built on word over the weekend that California biotech company InterMune agreed to sell itself to Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche for $8.3 billion. Some other names in biotech also got a boost from the deal.

Shortly after the market opened, the Commerce Department reported that sales of new homes slid 2.4 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 412,000. Homebuilder stocks declined, but the report didn't weigh down the broader market.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 75.65 points, or 0.4 percent, to 17,076.87. The Nasdaq composite gained 18.80 points, or 0.4 percent, to 4,557.35.

The major U.S. indexes are riding a three-week streak of weekly gains and are up for the year.

Stocks, with support from the Federal Reserve's easy-money policies, have been on a bull run for more than five years after the market bottomed out during the Great Recession in March, 2009.

"Unless the story changes, the stock market is going to get pushed higher by the lack of potentially good returns elsewhere," Kelley said.

The market should get some fresh insight on Tuesday, when the government reports data on consumer confidence, home prices and durable goods.

"Are people who are getting employed actually spending on bigger-ticket items? That becomes the big test," said JJ Kinahan, chief strategist at TD Ameritrade.

This week's calendar is heavy with economic data from the U.S. and Japan. In the U.S., quarterly gross domestic product will be released on Thursday, giving investors a new update on the health of the world's largest economy. Analysts at Mizuho Bank forecast that the U.S. economic growth would be revised down to 3.9 percent in the second from 4 percent as consumer spending slightly slowed. Japan will release monthly unemployment and inflation figures on Friday.

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