NEW YORK – Wall Street notched its third straight winning week with another strong performance Friday, advancing as computer maker Dell lifted the Nasdaq, and a new retail sales report showed that Americans were growing more confident about the economy.
The Dow Jones industrial average (search) was up 69.17 points, or 0.66 percent, to close at 10,539.01. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index (search) was up 10.69 points, or 0.91 percent, to finish at 1,184.17. The Nasdaq Composite Index (search) was up 24.07 points, or 1.17 percent, to end at 2,085.34.
For the week, the Dow rose 1.46 percent, while the Nasdaq gained 2.28 percent, and the S&P 500 climbed 1.54 percent.
The Dow closed at its highest level in seven months, the Nasdaq in nine months and the S&P hit a fresh three-year high. The U.S. stock market has been on an upward path since the election.
The latest Commerce Department (search) report said retail sales rose 0.2 percent in October. While the increase was small, it was considered a healthy gain considering that automobile sales dropped 2.2 percent. Without auto sales, retail sales would have been up a strong 0.9 percent, but the lack of spending on such big-ticket items worried some investors.
"The retail report, along with oil and the elections and the economy, they've all contributed to a very nice run we've had, and should continue to have through the end of the year," said Hans Olsen, managing director and chief investment officer at Bingham Legg Advisers in Boston.
Although auto sales fell, analysts said the retail sales figures showed that consumers' view of the economy was improving — just in time for the holiday shopping season. That was confirmed by the University of Michigan's (search) consumer sentiment index, which posted a preliminary 95.5 reading for November, up from 91.7 in October and far better than the 93 reading Wall Street had expected.
Dell Inc. (DELL) lifted the tech-heavy Nasdaq and the Standard & Poor's 500 index as it rose 8.6 percent, or $3.19 to $40.44 a day after it surprised Wall Street with a better outlook for the coming year.
"Dell has been the leader of the day, and all the tech stocks are acting well," said Todd Leone, head of listed trading at S.G. Cowen. "And oil is basically flat for the day -- which is good because it's come off a lot. We continue to see people pour money into the market."
Stabilizing crude oil futures once again helped stocks. A barrel of light crude settled at $47.32, down 10 cents, on the New York Mercantile Exchange (search). High oil prices have dragged on stocks as investors worry that high energy prices will pinch corporate profits and slow consumer spending.
Trading in Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) was active as Friday was the last day investors could buy the stock and receive its $3 a share dividend, approved earlier this week. Microsoft shares, which gained sharply on Thursday, ended down 1 cent at $29.97.
The Commerce Department report boosted retail stocks, with discount retailer Target Corp. (TGT) rising $1.25 to $52.02 and Dow component Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) climbing 23 cents to $56.85. Despite the drop in auto sales, shares of automakers posted modest gains. Ford Motor Co. (F) lost 2 cents to $14.23 and General Motors Corp. (GM) up 31 cents at $40.21.
Insurance stocks fell as New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer (search) filed suit against Universal Life Resources, charging the life and disability insurance broker with fraud and antitrust violations for steering business to certain insurers in return for lucrative payoffs.
Agilent Technologies Inc. (A) fell 12 percent, or $3.10 to $22.58 after Banc of America Securities cut its rating on the electronics testing and equipment maker to "sell" from "buy" following a weaker-than-expected forecast from the company.
Pixar Animation Studios Inc. (PIXR), producer of "Finding Nemo" and "The Incredibles," beat Wall Street's profit forecasts by 14 cents per share on the strength of its home video sales. Pixar surged $6.60 to $86.54.
Trading was active, with 1.5 billion shares changing hands on the New York Stock Exchange, above the 1.4 billion daily average for last year. About 2 billion shares were traded on Nasdaq, above the 1.69 billion daily average last year.
Advancers outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by 3 to 1, and 3 to 2 on Nasdaq.
The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies was up 5.68, or 0.92 percent, at 621.98.
Overseas, Japan's Nikkei stock average surged 1.6 percent. In Europe, Britain's FTSE 100 closed up 0.36 percent, France's CAC-40 rose 0.03 percent for the session, and Germany's DAX index gained 0.3 percent.
Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report.