U.S. stocks rose cautiously Friday to notch a fourth week of gains, with a rally by telecom shares offsetting weakness in the industrial sector as investors awaited next week's Federal Reserve policy statement.
The S&P 500 Index advanced 9.86 points, or 0.5%, to close at a new all-time high of 2,175.03, boosted by 1.3% jumps in both telecom and utilities, sectors typically viewed as defensive. The previous all-time closing high for the index was 2,173.02 on Wednesday.
All 10 of the S&P 500's sectors closed in positive territory, with the worst performer being a fractional gain in industrials sector.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 53.62 points, or 0.3%, to close at 18,570.85, led by gains in Visa Inc.(V), American Express Co.(AXP), and Microsoft Corp.(MSFT), offsetting declines in General Electric Co. (GE) and Caterpillar Inc. (CAT) The gains come after the blue-chip gauge snapped its nine-session win streak on Thursday.
Meanwhile, the Nasdaq Composite Index rose 26.26 points, or 0.5%, to close at 5,100.16, its highest close of 2016.
"This is the rally that no one believes and people want to feel like they are not missing out, but want to err on the side of a sector that is less risky," said J.J. Kinahan, chief market strategist atTD Ameritrade, referring to buying in telecom and utilities. "They think 'at least if the stock goes down then I'll at least get a pretty good yield,'" he said.
A batch of mostly better-than-expected earnings has offered some cause for cheer among investors and provided some support for equities to climb with earnings season a third of the way complete, said Jonathan Golub, chief equity strategist at RBC Capital Markets.
Second-quarter profits are on track to show a contraction of 4.2% with more than 100 companies in the S&P 500 already out with quarterly results, according to FactSet data. That compares with an expected falll in profit of 5.3% in the second quarter, according to the average of analyst estimates compiled by FactSet.
"The reason we study earnings is to get a sense of where things are going, not where they've been,. And I think that if there was a vulnerability going into earnings season that people were concerned about negative growth rate, it really looks like that fear is going away," Golub said.
Quincy Krosby, market strategist at Prudential Financial, said wobbly stock moves over the past few sessions make sense, considering the sizable swing higher for equities over the past week.
"Typically, when a market moves higher toward new highs it tends to wait to adjust for the next new catalyst," Krosby said.
For Wall Street, the next impetus likely will be the two-day Fed policy meeting slated for July 26-27. Although the central bank isn't expected to push benchmark rates higher, market participants will pore over the updated policy statement for clues on the pace and timing of the next rate hike, which could influence the U.S. dollar, Treasurys and the broader stock market.