“The U.S. economy seems to be on a steady path upward amid robust job reports and consistent industrial production gains. The unemployment rate has fallen below 6 percent for the first time since the recession. Also, falling commodity prices, specifically crude oil, are leaving more money in consumers’ wallets, Bill Stone, chief investment strategist at PNC Asset Management, noted in emailed research.
“Generally, we think these positive economic trends could be enough to garner a visit from Old St. Nick,” added Stone, referring to the phenomenon known as the Santa Claus rally.
Equities briefly cut gains after a report had existing home sales down 6.1 percent to 4.93 million in November.
“With continued job gains, a leg lower in mortgage rates and a reversal higher in stocks, hopefully housing will gain some traction but renting still remains an appealing option for many first-time households who don’t own stocks,” Peter Boockvar, chief market analyst at the Lindsdey Group, wrote in emailed commentary.
American Apparel jumped after the retailer said it would evaluate a proposal to acquire the company for $1.30 to $1.40 a share.
Benchmarks have surged since the Federal Reserve promised to be patient in looking to increase interest rates in the new year.
Rising for a fourth session to end at a record, the Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 154.64 points, or 0.9 percent, to 17,959.44, with Intel leading blue-chip gains that included 27 of 30 components.
Recording its 50th record close for 2014, the S&P 500 gained 7.89 points, or 0.4 percent, to 2,078.54, with technology the best performing and health care hardest hit among its 10 major industry groups.
The Nasdaq gained 16.04 points, or 0.3 percent, to 4,781.42.
Trading volume was light ahead of the Christmas holiday on Thursday.
For every two shares sliding, three rose on the New York Stock Exchange, where nearly 791 million shares traded. Composite volume surpassed 3.3 billion.
The U.S. dollar fell against the currencies of major U.S. trading partners; the yield on the 10-year Treasury note used to figure mortgage rates and other consumer loans fell a basis point to 2.1567 percent.
Crude-oil futures for February delivery dropped $1.87, or 3.3 percent, to $55.26 a barrel; the February gold contract shed $16.20, or 1.4 percent, to $1,179.80 an ounce on the New York Mercantile Exchange.