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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

WallStreet Update: Dow closes above 18,000 for the first time since last July

Stocks advanced Monday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average rising above the 18,000 level for the first time since July, as investors shook off oil’s losses on failed output talks and looked toward a bevy of corporate earnings this week.

The index jumped about 100 points to close above 18,000 on Monday.

It's a pretty sweet milestone considering the Dow plunged to just 15,451 in January, as Wall Street freaked out over the crash in oil prices and China's economic slowdown. Cooler heads eventually prevailed as investors realized the American economy is not collapsing and cheap oil is actually good for most Americans.

The Dow is now up 16.5% from its 2016 low, and is within striking distance of its all-time record high of 18,351 set last May. The S&P 500 also closed at a fresh 2016 high on Monday.

Even the Nasdaq is closing in on a key level: The tech index is now down just 1% on the year. That's impressive given the fact the Nasdaq was flirting with a bear market back in February.

Hasbro Inc. surged nearly 6 percent to a record, buoying sentiment after its results beat expectations, thanks in part to demand for Walt Disney Co.’s “Star Wars”-licensed toys.

Disney added 2.9 percent. Energy producers rallied as crude trimmed declines that had reached as much as 6.8 percent. Morgan Stanley was little changed after fluctuating between gains and losses as cost cuts helped the firm report a better-than-forecast profit.

The gains in equities have come even as earnings are forecast to slide at the steepest pace since the financial crisis, pushing the S&P 500’s price-earnings ratio to 19, near a six-year high. Moreover, should the Federal Reserve continue to gradually raise interest rates and the government refrain from adding stimulus, it would be the first time since 1952 that profits turned lower without a recession, Fed easing or fiscal expansion, data compiled by Bianco Research LLC show.

More than 90 companies are scheduled to report results this week, including Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Starbucks Corp. and American Express Co. Analysts are projecting a 9.5 percent decline in first-quarter profit, compared with forecasts for almost flat growth at the start of the year.

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