- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 26, 2019

Stock markets posted new record highs Thursday as a year-end rally fueled by trade optimism and strong holiday sales pushed the Nasdaq index above 9,000 points for the first time in its history.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq rose 69 points, or 0.78%, to close the day at 9,022. The S&P 500 also posted a new all-time high at 3,239, a gain of 0.5% on the day.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished up about 105 points, or 0.37%, reaching a peak of 28,621.

The fresh gains came as Amazon.com reported Thursday that it had a record-breaking holiday season, with its Alexa-enabled devices Echo Dot, Fire TV Stick and Echo Show 5 among its top sellers. Amazon’s stock price rose 4.45% for the day.

Total U.S. retail sales rose about 3.4% over last year’s Christmas shopping period and online sales hot a record, up 19% over 2019. Sales on Dec. 21, the date this year for “Super Saturday,” were the best in the history of U.S. retail, bringing in a record $34.4 billion, according to Customer Growth Partners, a consulting and research firm.

Electronics and appliances were the biggest sellers of the holiday shopping season, with sales climbing 4.6% over last year (and 10.7% online), MasterCard reported.

The unemployment rate is 3.5%, the lowest since 1969, another factor fueling consumer spending.

Stocks also have rallied on optimism that the U.S. and China will sign a “phase one” trade deal early next month, and fresh indications that Beijing has renewed massive purchases of American grain and other agricultural products. A Chinese commerce ministry spokesman said Thursday that both sides were in “close communication” in hashing out the language of the deal.

Also, the Labor Department said Thursday that initial jobless claims decreased by 13,000 in the week that ended Dec. 21 to a seasonally adjusted 222,000, meeting investors’ expectations for a continued healthy job market.

Vice President Mike Pence called the record highs in the Nasdaq and the S&P 500 markets “great news.”

“2019 was a record breaking year for our booming economy under President @realDonaldTrump’s leadership!” Mr. Pence tweeted.

The president re-tweeted a report from CNBC noting that the S&P 500 has returned more than 50% since he was elected, more than double the 23% average market return of presidents three years into their term.

The index has gained more than 28% this year alone, well above the average return of 12.8% in the third year of previous presidencies.

The president is pointing to the strong economy and record stock-market performance as the best arguments for his reelection next year. The White House and its allies say the tax cuts signed into law two years ago and Mr. Trump’s aggressive deregulation campaign have helped to produce the healthy job market, rising wages and strong corporate earnings.

⦁ This article is based in part on wire-service reports.

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