NEW YORK – The stock market closed at a new 18-month high Friday, with the Dow Jones industrial average briefly touching 11,000 before retreating slightly.
The gains were driven by fresh signs that the economy continues to recover. Many analysts remain skeptical that the market’s gains are sustainable since they have come on relatively low volume, indicating that a large number of investors are still sitting on the sidelines.
Stocks got a boost after reassuring statements from Greece’s finance minister and the head of the European Central Bank. Major European indexes closed higher, while the dollar fell against the euro.
Major indexes pulled back briefly after Fitch Ratings cut its view on Greece’s debt, but quickly recovered. Stocks have been fluctuating in recent days and the euro has weakened because of concerns that Greece might default on its debt.
Greece’s deepening fiscal crisis has upset other financial markets and caused concerns that other weak European countries also might default on their debt, which could cause a crisis for Europe’s shared currency.
“If (Greece) falls apart, it makes everything else there fall apart,” said Chip Cobb, a senior vice president at Bryn Mawr Trust Asset Management in Bryn Mawr, Pa. “Greece is becoming a real thorn in the side.”
Rising commodity prices also helped energy and material stocks, pushing indexes higher. Commodities mostly climbed on hopes demand will jump as the economy continues to improve. Chevron Corp. and ExxonMobil Corp. both rose.
While the Dow’s approach to 11,000 has been a big focus for many individual investors, a number of Wall Street analysts downplay its importance for professional money managers. The Dow has crossed the 11,000 level 34 times since first hitting it in May 1999.
The Dow Jones industrial average is now up 68 percent from a 12-year low of 6,547.05 on March 9, 2009. It’s still down 22 percent from its October 2007 peak of 14,164.53.