S&P closes at new high, first time above 1,900

Last Updated May 23, 2014 5:10 PM EDT

Call it the Great Slog.

Stocks are bumbling along this year after a gangbuster 2013.

The upward grind is underscored by the Standard & Poor's 500 index, which closed above 1,900 for the first time on Friday and is up 2.8 percent for the year. Today's close is three points above the index's previous all-time high close 10 days ago.

That gain compares with a 16 percent increase over the same period last year.

Other major indexes haven't fared any better. The Dow Jones industrial average and the Nasdaq composite are barely in positive territory for 2014.

The stock market's five-year bull run is pausing. Economic growth has fallen short of expectations, barely expanding in the first quarter after a strong finish to 2013. Investors are being more cautious while they wait for compelling evidence that growth will continue.

Karyn Cavanaugh, senior market strategist at Voya Investment Management, believes that there will be a "spring snapback," in the economy. Company earnings, already at record levels, will keep climbing and support stock prices. "There are a lot of good things going on in the market," she said.

The S&P 500 rose 8.04 points, or 0.4 percent, to close at 1,900.53. The index first rose above 1,900 during trading on May 13, but fell back to close below that level.

The Dow climbed 63.19 points, or 0.4 percent, to end at 1,606.27. The Nasdaq rose 31.47 points, or 0.8 percent, to finish at 4,185.81.

Investors bid up homebuilder stocks following news that sales of new U.S. homes increased last month. Lennar rose $1.55, or 4 percent, to $40.54. D.R. Horton rose 92 cents, or 4.1 percent, to $23.57.

The Commerce Department reported that sales of U.S. new homes rose 6.4 percent in April after slumping in the previous two months.

"While it wasn't a stellar number, it was not weak and it helps assuage fears," that the housing recovery is weakening, said Quincy Krosby, a market strategist with Prudential Financial. "It really did help set the tone of the market."

Noted Bill McBride on his Calculated Risk blog: "This disappointing start to the year is probably mostly due to higher mortgage rates and higher prices. Mortgage rates were at 3.45% in April 2013 and increased to 4.34% in April 2014. Also there were probably supply constraints in some areas and credit remains difficult for many potential borrowers."

He also pointed out that year-over-year home sales comparisons are difficult right now because "sales in the first four months of 2013 were up 26% from the same period in 2012!"

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.53 percent.

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