U.S. stocks on Wednesday notched yet another gain, extending the winning streak for the Dow Jones industrial average to nine straight days – its longest number of consecutive “up” days since 1996.
The Dow closed at 14,455.28, up 5.22 points or close to almost zero per cent – which also happens to be the seventh straight record-high close for the blue-chip index. The broader S&P 500 closed at 1554.52, up 2.04 points or 0.1 per cent. In Canada, the S&P/TSX composite index closed at 12,744.11, down 134.47 points or 1 per cent.
As the Wall Street Journal pointed out, while the Dow’s winning streak is impressive, the overall gains are relatively modest. The Dow has risen just 2.8 per cent over the past nine sessions, and a total of just 7 points over the past two days.
The slight U.S. moves follow a better-than-expected reading on U.S. retail sales last month. The Commerce Department reported that sales rose 1.1 per cent in February, well ahead of expectations and the biggest gain in five months – demonstrating consumer resilience even with higher payroll taxes.
Economists responded with upbeat expectations for U.S. economic growth in the fourth quarter. Toronto-Dominion Bank estimates growth will rebound to 2.5 per cent, while CIBC World Markets believes growth will hit 3 per cent, at an annualized pace. U.S. gross domestic product grew just 0.1 per cent in the fourth quarter, according to its last revision.
Consumer stocks showed strength: Best Buy Co. Inc. rose 3.3 per cent and Abercrombie & Fitch rose 2.7 per cent.
Google Inc. fell 0.3 per cent after it announced that Andy Rubin, the head of its Android division, is stepping down. He is being replaced by Sundar Pichai. Android has become the world’s dominant operating system for mobile software.
Canadian stocks suffered broad declines, with commodity producers walloped after the International Energy Association cut its global demand forecast for oil in 2013. Energy stocks fell 1.2 per cent and materials fell 2.1 per cent.
Among key commodities, crude oil fell to $92.38 (U.S.) a barrel, down 16 cents. Gold fell to $1,586.90 an ounce, down $4.80.
Meanwhile, Canadian financials slipped 0.9 per cent and telecom stocks fell 1.6 per cent.
Shares in Research In Motion Ltd. surged late in the session to close up 8.1 per cent after it announced an order for 1 million of its BlackBerry 10 smartphones. It was the largest single purchase for its phones in history.