US stocks gain on economic data, post-election hopes

About 30 minutes into trade, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was at 17,921.34, up 18.83 points (0.11 percent) (AFP Photo/Andrew Burton) (GETTY/AFP/File)

New York (AFP) - Wall Street enjoyed another upbeat week following a slew of US economic reports and an election that put Republicans in control of the Senate and raised their clout elsewhere.

Although the Dow and S&P 500 finished the week at all-time highs, the gains were not as robust as those of the prior two weeks.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 183.41 points (1.05 percent) to 17,573.93, while the S&P 500 gained 13.87 (0.69 percent) to 2,031.92. Friday marked the third straight record close for the two indices.

The tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index inched up by 1.79 (0.04 percent) to 4,632.53.

"Sentiment remains very bullish," said David Levy, portfolio manager at Kenjol Capital Management.

The S&P 500 has risen more than nine percent since October 16 when talk of a correction dominated.

"Time and again you've seen sell-offs purchased and markets bounce back to high levels in short order," Levy said. "We've seen a continuation of that and, as a result, sentiment remains very positive."

Analysts said the balance of the week's economic and earnings reports was consistent with a slow-growth economy, culminating with Friday's employment report, which said the US economy added 214,000 jobs in October, weaker than the 235,000 projected by analysts.

Analysts said the report marked another month of job growth above 200,000, but was not strong enough to prod the Federal Reserve to shift from its plan to keep interest rates low well into 2015.

In economic reports earlier in the week, purchasing managers indicated stronger manufacturing industry activity in October and slightly weaker growth in services compared with September.

The US trade deficit widened in September to $43.0 billion as exports slowed and imports remained flat from the previous month.

Levy said some of the data has been "mildly disappointing," but not bad enough to shake confidence in the US economic recovery, especially compared with weakness overseas.

"The slow recovery is still intact," he said.

- An end to gridlock? -

The string of records also followed Tuesday's elections in which Republicans seized control of the Senate, added to their majority in the House of Representatives and won key Democrat governorships.

Analysts said the election had raised hopes of progress on a host of pro-business initiatives such as tax reform, the Keystone XL pipeline and immigration reform.

The market's performance was consistent with past elections and "suggests that investors believe that a change in Washington is likely to help the economy compared to the partisan gridlock of the past few years," said a note by Gary Thayer, chief macro strategist at Wells Fargo Advisors.

Still, Thayer warned that President Barack Obama and his Democrats will not want to alienate their base heading into the 2016 presidential elections, a factor that could prevent major new policies from advancing.

"The president has an opportunity to be more than a lame duck for the next two years, but he may still want to stand his ground on issues important to the Democratic Party."

In corporate news, petroleum stocks continued to underperform the broader market as oil prices drifted lower. Dow member Chevron fell 1.0 percent on the week and Marathon Oil dropped 2.9 percent. Some petroleum stocks, such as Apache, have fallen nearly 20 percent since late September.

Large banks also faced pressure as they reportedly neared new settlements with regulators investigating rigging in the foreign exchange market.

JPMorgan Chase disclosed that it was facing a US criminal probe into its foreign exchange trading business as it raised its projected legal costs by $1.3 billion.

Bank of America slashed its third-quarter earnings by $400 million due to higher legal costs for the foreign exchange probe.

Chinese Internet giant Alibaba Group Holdings remained a bright spot, surging more than 16 percent during the week as its first earnings report as a public company showed earnings rose 15 percent to $1.1 billion.

Next week's calendar includes earnings from retail giant Wal-Mart Stores and Cisco Systems. The October retail sales report is a highlight in a relatively quiet week of economic data.