S&P 500 Sets Milestone

The S&P 500 set a new all-time high Friday on strong earnings from GE and a jump in consumer confidence.

Merger mania also helped continue the market’s run, on speculation that Dow component Alcoa will be next.

The big-cap index eclipsed its March 2000 intraday high of 1552.87 and reached 1555.10 before pulling back to close at 1552.50, the index’s highest close ever. The index has now recovered all of its 50% decline from 2000-2002.

The Dow eclipsed its 2000 peak last year, while the Nasdaq remains 47% below its March 2000 record.

Paychex gained 5% after hiking its dividend, while Saba Software rose 4% despite posting quarterly results that were just below analysts’ estimates.

Macrovision , Nextest and Vimicro slumped on their earnings reports.

Earnings season swings into high gear next week, with Yahoo , Intel , eBay , AMD , Google , Microsoft and IBM among the names reporting.

The Nasdaq added 5 to 2707, the S&P 500 climbed 4 to 1552, and the Dow rose 45 to 13,907. Volume declined to 2.77 billion shares on the NYSE, and 1.8 billion on the Nasdaq. Advancing issues led by a 16-15 margin on the NYSE, while decliners held a 16-14 edge on the Nasdaq. Upside volume was 60% on the NYSE, and 53% on the Nasdaq. New highs-new lows were 350-90 on the NYSE, and 219-77 on the Nasdaq.

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