Global stocks post longest streak of gains in two years; dollar firms

Fri Mar 18, 2016 4:47pm EDT
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By Rodrigo Campos

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The S&P 500 closed in positive territory for the year for the first time in 2016, leading a gauge of stocks across major markets to a fifth week of gains, its longest weekly run in more than two years.

The dollar, meanwhile, edged up on Friday but ended the week lower against a basket of major currencies, giving a weekly boost to energy and other commodity prices. The U.S. currency fell for a third consecutive week, most recently weighed by the Federal Reserves' resetting of market expectations on the number of times it will raise rates in 2016.

Oil prices slipped after hitting 2016 peaks.

On Wall Street, the S&P 500 closed above the level where it ended last year for the first time. Healthcare and financial sector stocks were among the leaders, a welcome signal of rotation for stock bulls.

With the fear of a U.S. recession mostly in the rear-view mirror, investors want to add to stock exposure and are buying up the year's worst performers, according to Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities in New York.

"You want to see sector rotation into the laggards," he said, noting that the rise to positive territory for the S&P 500 could mean the five-week stocks rally could lose steam.

"What we've seen is enough good news to say we're not going into recession. This is a short-term top in a longer-term bull market."

The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI rose 120.81 points, or 0.69 percent, to 17,602.3, the S&P 500 .SPX gained 8.97 points, or 0.44 percent, to 2,049.56 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC added 20.66 points, or 0.43 percent, to 4,795.65.   Continued...

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) March 16, 2016. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid