Dow, S&P 500 Step Further Into Record Territory

NEW YORK (AP) -

Solid profits for big companies and optimistic economic news helped nudge the stock market to another record high Thursday.

In European markets, losses turned to gains when the head of the European Central Bank said he was ready to take more steps to revive the region’s struggling economy. The news knocked the euro to a two-year low against the dollar.

Whole Foods Market jumped 12 percent, the biggest gain in the Standard & Poor’s 500 index, after reporting higher quarterly earnings than analysts had expected. Whole Foods climbed $4.33 to end the day at $44.34.

The S&P 500 edged up 7.64 points, or 0.4 percent, to close at 2,031.21. That put the benchmark index for most mutual funds up 0.7 percent for the week.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 69.94 points, or 0.4 percent, to 17,554.47, while the Nasdaq composite gained 17.75 points, also 0.4 percent, to 4,638.47.

Stronger earnings results from Caterpillar, Microsoft and other corporate giants have helped push the market higher over recent weeks. Third-quarter earnings for S&P 500 companies are on track to rise nearly 9 percent, according to S&P Capital IQ. Before results began to roll in, analysts had estimated earnings would increase 6 percent.

After the close of regular trading on Wednesday, Tesla Motors posted results that beat Wall Street’s estimates and also reported record deliveries of its flagship sedan, the Model S. Tesla’s stock gained $10.25, or 4 percent, to $241.22.

In Europe, Mario Draghi, the head of the European Central Bank, said he would consider more unconventional measures, such as large-scale bond purchases, to pump money into the economy, “if needed.” The ECB has come under increasing pressure to provide more support for Europe’s recovery and prevent prices from falling. Draghi spoke following the ECB’s decision to keep its benchmark interest rate unchanged at 0.05 percent, a record low.

European stock markets turned higher after Draghi’s talk. Germany’s DAX closed with a gain of 0.7 percent, while the CAC-40 in France gained 0.5 percent. The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares picked up 0.2 percent.

Draghi’s comments also helped push the euro lower. The currency fell from $1.252 before he began talking to $1.239, its lowest level since August 2010.

Back in the U.S., government bond prices fell, nudging the yield on the 10-year Treasury note up to 2.37 percent.

In metals trading, gold continued its slump, losing $3.10, or 0.3 percent, to settle at $1,142.60 an ounce. Silver slid 3 cents, or 0.2 percent, to $15.41 an ounce, and copper rose a penny, or 0.3 percent, to $3.02 per pound.

Benchmark U.S. crude oil dipped 77 cents to close at $77.91 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, fell 9 cents to close at $82.86 in London.

In other trading on the NYMEX, wholesale gasoline rose 4.3 cents to close at $2.130 a gallon, heating oil rose 2 cents to close at $2.459 a gallon and natural gas rose 21 cents to close at $4.404 per 1,000 cubic feet.