Apple store on 5th Avenue in New York City. / Spencer Platt, Getty
The broad Wilshire 5000 index, which tracks all stocks available for trade, hit an all-time high Thursday morning, the first major sign that the painful bear market of 2008 and 2009 has finally been undone.
Thanks largely to a powerful rally in shares of smaller companies, the Wilshire 5000 added 72.44, or 0.5%, to 15,842.65 in early trading, pushing it over its all-time high of 15,806.69 set Oct. 9, 2007. At the close, the index was off its high but still up 15.12 to 15,785.33.
Traders and investors looked to this major milestone as a sign that the bull market has finally beaten the nasty bear that shredded trillions in investors' wealth. A breathtaking $10.7 trillion in wealth has been created during the market's rally from its March 9, 2007 low -- roughly how much was wiped in what was the worst bear market since the Great Depression.
"It is a broad index which would say that this rally in the stock market has reached into many sectors of the economy, many different companies, both big and small, and many types of businesses," says Jerry Webman, chief economist at OppenheimerFunds. "All that suggests that it is a broad advance and could signal a turn back toward the stock market from retail investors."
Meanwhile, the more familiar Standard & Poor's 500 index briefly pierced 1,500 for the first time since December 2007. A decline in unemployment claims was the news that showed the labor market is on the mend and was enough to spark the rally. The S&P 500 inched up 0.28 point to 1495.09. The S&P has gained in each of the past seven trading days. The Dow Jones industrial average closed 46.00 points higher at 13,825.30.
Not all investors were celebrating the market's return to its former highs. Investors who poured into Apple shares last year are feeling pain, not gain. Shares of the digital gadget maker plunged $63.51, or 12.4%, to $450.50 as investors showed their disappointment in the company's dramatically slowing growth.
The weakness in Apple was enough to drag the Nasdaq composite index down 23.29 points to 3130.38. Apple accounts for 9.9% of the index, giving it a big weighting.
Apple predicted that its sales would grow just 7% in the current quarter, as iPhone sales peak and the company lacks new products to introduce. That's a let-down for a company that has regularly posted growth rates above 50%.
The Labor Department reported that the number of Americans applying for unemployment aid fell last week to the lowest since January 2008. Applications dropped 5,000 to 330,000. The four-week average also hit a five-year low.
Netflix jumped 42%, or $43.60, to $146.86. Analysts had expected rising expenses to lead the provider of movies and television shows to post a loss in the last three months of 2012. But Netflix said late Wednesday that it turned a profit with the help of 2 million new subscribers.
Microsoft and Starbucks are scheduled to report after the closing bell.
In the market for U.S. government bonds, the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note edged up to 1.84% from 1.83% late Wednesday.
Contributing: Associated Press
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