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US stocks inch further into record territory

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Specialist Ronnie Howard, right, works at his post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Monday, Nov. 24, 2014. U.S. stocks rose in early trading in line with gains from Asian markets and thanks to improvement in German business confidence. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

NEW YORK – The US stock market moved slightly higher in early afternoon trading yesterday, keeping major indexes at record levels. Renewed confidence that stimulus measures from global central banks will help spur economic growth is supporting demand for stocks.

KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose four points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,067 as of 12:16 p.m. Eastern. The Dow Jones industrial average climbed four points, or less than 0.1 percent, to 17,814. The Nasdaq composite gained 31 points, or 0.7 percent, to 4,744.

CONSUMER GOODS: The so-called consumer discretionary sector, which includes retailers such as Coach, Urban Outfitters and Gap, led gains for the stock market ahead of the holiday season. Coach rose 98 cents, or 2.6 percent, to $37.41 as analysts at Stifel reiterated their belief that the company was “doing the right things to reinvigorate the brand.” The analysts believe that the stock’s price could climb as high as $47.

THE BACKDROP: The S&P 500 has gained 11 percent since bottoming out in a slump that stretched from mid-September to mid-October. The rally has been driven by a belief that central bank actions in Europe, China and Japan will help invigorate global economic growth.

On Friday, China’s central bank lowered a key interest rate and European Central Bank President Mario Draghi said he was willing to step up the bank’s efforts to stimulate the region’s struggling economy.

THE QUOTE: “You clearly have momentum favoring stocks right now,” said Russ Koesterich, chief investment strategist at Blackrock. “You have a persistence of low interest rates and, if anything, long-term rates continue to grind lower in most parts of the world.”

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EUROPE: Sentiment was supported in European markets by a rise in the closely watched Ifo business confidence survey in Germany, the first after six months of declines. The increase suggests Europe’s largest economy may improve after a weak summer, though growth is likely to remain subdued.

MARKET BOOST: Germany’s DAX rose 0.5 percent to 9,785 while France’s CAC-40 gained 0.5 percent to 4,385. London’s FTSE 100 dipped 0.3 percent to 6,729.

OPEC: Traders are also watching a meeting in Vienna on Thursday of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries for a possible agreement to cut production to shore up prices. The price of crude has tumbled 25 percent since the summer as producers kept output stable while demand in Europe and other markets weakened.

ENERGY: Benchmark US crude rose 11 cents to $76.62 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

BONDS AND CURRENCIES: US government bond prices edged lower. The yield on the 10-year benchmark note climbed to 2.32 percent, from 2.31 percent Friday. The dollar continued its ascent against the Japanese yen. The US currency rose to 118.41 yen from 117.79 yen Friday. The euro rose to $1.2426 from $1.2360.

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