Stocks Close at Record Highs as Positive Holiday-Shopping Reports Fuel Gains

4:09PM ET 12/26/2019 MT Newswires
Stocks ended at record highs Thursday as investors returned from the Christmas break and digested positive reports about the holiday-shopping season.

Mastercard (MA) said ahead of the market open that holiday sales excluding automobiles rose 3.4%, driven higher by a nearly 19% gain in online sales between Nov. 1 and this past Tuesday.

"Due to a later-than-usual Thanksgiving holiday, we saw retailers offering omni-channel sales earlier in the season, meeting customers' demand for the best deals across all channels and devices," said Steve Sadove, a senior advisor to Mastercard.

Meanwhile, China's government said overnight that it was in contact with the Trump administration about signing their recent trade deal, Reuters reported.

Consumer discretionary shares surged nearly 1.4%, pulled higher by retailers. (AMZN) popped 4.5% after it said its holiday season was record-breaking as "billions" of items were ordered on its e-commerce platform along with tens of millions of the company's devices.

Macy's (M) added 2.6%, and Gap (GPS) rose 1.6%.

Communication services gained more than 0.6%, as News Corp. Class B shares (NWS) rose 1.7%. Alphabet (GOOGL) and Facebook each firmed 1.3%.

Apple (AAPL) gained 1.9% to drive tech shares nearly 0.6% higher.

In company news, Tesla (TSLA) shares rose 1.3% after Wedbush Securities raised its price target on the electric-vehicle maker by $100.

Meanwhile, the number of Americans filing to receive unemployment benefits last week feel from the prior week to come in just ahead of the Street's expectations, government data showed.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose almost 0.4%, and the Standard & Poor's 500 advanced 0.5%. The Nasdaq Composite finished nearly 0.8% higher to finish above 9,000 for the first time.