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The S&P 500 surges to a record high as hopes about the economy — and Big Tech — grow

The S&P 500 hit a record high on Friday, boosted by gains in technology share and by rising hopes about the economy.
Michael M. Santiago
Getty Images
The S&P 500 hit a record high on Friday, boosted by gains in technology share and by rising hopes about the economy.

The S&P 500 set a fresh record on Friday as shares of big tech companies rallied and as hopes about the economy continue to grow.

The index, a broad-based group of stocks that includes many of the world's biggest and best-known companies, ended the day up 1.2%, to close at 4,839.81, surpassing a record it previously set in January 2022.

Stocks have been gaining momentum since last year, thanks in large measure by rising hopes about artificial intelligence. That has boosted shares of a small basket of stocks that have come to be known as the "Magnificent Seven," including Alphabet, the parent company of Google, Apple, and Meta.

Economic hopes are also contributing to the gains.

The S&P 500 ended 2023 up by 24%, surprising many investors who started last year fearing the Federal Reserve's aggressive campaign to fight high inflation would kickstart a recession.

Instead inflation has eased and the economy has proven much sturdier than expected, and Wall Street now expects the Fed will start cutting interest rates this year, even if there is still a lot of uncertainty about how soon that will happen.

The Fed will next meet at the end of the month, and it's likely policymakers will hold interest rates steady, though investors are hoping to get more guidance on what they are thinking.

Investors have also cheered recent economic data, including better-than-expected retail sales numbers.

Meanwhile, a widely followed survey from the University of Michigan, released on Friday, showed a second consecutive monthly surge in consumer sentiment. That was another good omen for an economy that has proven to be far sturdier than expected.

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Based in New York, David Gura is a correspondent on NPR's business desk. His stories are broadcast on NPR's newsmagazines, All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition, and he regularly guest hosts 1A, a co-production of NPR and WAMU.