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Dow wipes out final losses of 2020

NEW YORK >> The gains keep piling up on Wall Street, and the S&P 500 rallied again on Friday to close out its fifth straight winning week.

The benchmark index rose 23.46, or 0.7%, to 3,508.01, setting another record high and several more superlatives. It was the seventh straight day of gains for the index. It also capped a 3.3% rally for the week to cement its longest weekly winning streak since December, before the coronavirus pandemic swept the world and sent economies tumbling into recession.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rallied 161.60, or 0.6%, to 28,653.87 and clawed its way back to a tiny gain for the year. It’s just 0.4%, but it’s the first time the Dow has been up for 2020 since late February.

The Nasdaq composite climbed 70.30, or 0.6%, to 11,695.63 to set another record. It’s lapped the other U.S. stock indexes many times over, thanks to market-leading gains for big technology stocks, and it’s up 30.3% for 2020 so far.

A report released before trading began showed that U.S. consumer spending grew more in July than economists expected. That’s key because consumer spending is the main driver of the nation’s economy. Consumers increased their spending by 1.9% for the third straight month of gains, though it was a slowdown from June’s 6.2% growth.

Income also rose by 0.4% for Americans last month, snapping back from a drop in June. It adds to other reports showing the economy has improved since the worst of the business lockdowns of the spring, though it remains well below where it was before the pandemic. Data recently has also been relatively mixed.

Ulta Beauty, a company that relies on consumers opening their wallets, jumped 5.8% for one of the biggest gains in the S&P 500 after it reported a drop in profit for the latest quarter that wasn’t as bad as Wall Street analysts expected.

Technology stocks also again helped to pull the market higher. HP rose 6.1% after it reported better profit for the latest quarter than analysts expected. The pandemic means more people are working and learning — and printing documents — from home, which helps sales of all kinds of products for HP.

Stocks are continuing to rise after the Federal Reserve on Thursday unveiled a change in strategy that likely means interest rates will stay low for a long time, even if inflation rises above the 2% target level of the central bank. It’s something Fed Chair Jerome Powell called a form of “average inflation targeting” in a widely anticipated speech, and its full ramifications are still to be determined.

“Markets are trying to figure out what the Fed actually meant by its average inflation target,” said Jamie Cox, managing partner for Harris Financial Group.

Low interest rates and massive amounts of bond purchases by the Fed have helped prop up the economy, and they’re a central reason the S&P 500 has been able to recover from its nearly 34% plunge earlier this year, even though the pandemic is still raging.

With aid from the Federal Reserve firmly in place, investors want to see Congress also deliver more support for the economy. Weekly benefits that it approved earlier for unemployed workers have run out, and investors say the economy desperately needs another lifeline from Capitol Hill to carry it through its current weakness.

“You can already see some cracks forming in what consumer spending will look like if there isn’t much support in the future,” Cox said.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury gave back a bit of its big rise from the day before, dipping to 0.73% from 0.74% late Thursday. The 30-year yield rose to 1.51% from 1.50%.

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