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S&P 500 closes at record high, Dow tops 18,000

The Wall Street bull shrugged off fears of Friday the 13th and raced higher, with the S&P 500 stock index setting a new record high and the Dow topping 18,000 for the first time this year. The Standard & Poor’s 500 gained 8.51 points, or 0.4%, to close at an all-time high of 2096.99 beating its previous Dec. 29, 2014 record close of 2090.57.130811_wall_street_ap_605

The Dow Jones industrial average added 46.97 points, or 0.3%, to 18,019.35. The blue-chip index rose above 18,000 for the first time since December 2014. The Nasdaq composite index was up 36.22 points, or 0.8% at 4893.84, a fresh 15-year high. The small-cap Russell 2000 stock index also closed at a new record, rising 6.86, or 0.6%, to 1223.13, topping its Dec. 29, 2014 closing record of 1219.11.

Friday’s close means that the new-high party on Wall Street, which went on hiatus after the end of 2014, has resumed. The S&P 500 set its first record close of 2015, after 53 record closes last year and 45 record-setting closes in 2013. The Dow is now less than 35 points off its Dec. 26, 2014, record high of 18,053.71. Stocks got a boost Friday on hopes that Greece and its creditors can hammer out a deal on the debt-strapped country’s bailout when talks resume Monday. Strong economic data out of Europe also gave markets a lift, as did a continued rebound in oil prices. U.S. crude, which is getting a boost from the Ukraine-Russia cease-fire announced yesterday, was up another 3% to $52.76 a barrel, which boosted energy shares.

The S&P 500′s new high is particularly impressive because it followed a 3.10% drop in January. So far this month, the S&P 500 is up 5.11% and would be the best February gain since the 7.04% gain in February 1998, says Howard Silverblatt, senior index analyst for S&P Dow Jones Indices.

Overseas, Asian stocks had a mixed close. Japan’s Nikkei 225 dipped 0.4% to 17,913.36, while Hong Kong’s Heng Seng rose 1.1% to 24,682.54. European markets rose: Germany’s DAX gained 0.4% to 10,963.40, Britain’s FTSE 100 added 0.7% to 6873.52 and France’s CAC 40 rose 0.7% to 4759.36. Driving the gains in Europe was the Friday release of German data that showed the country’s economy had grown in 2014′s fourth quarter at a better-than-expected rate of 0.7%. The eurozone economy saw fourth-quarter GDP rise a stronger-than-expected 0.3%. For the full year 2014, eurozone GDP rose 0.9%, compared to a contraction of 0.4% in 2013, according to Barclays.