NEW YORK — U. S. stocks climbed Wednesday as investors bought shares of companies focused on consumers, including automakers and retailers. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index finished a single point below its all-time high.
General Motors and Ford jumped as car companies reported generally strong sales for the month of December. Companies that mine for metals and make chemicals and other materials climbed as the dollar receded a bit from its recent highs. Small-company stocks picked up where they left off in 2017 as the Russell 2000 index outpaced other major indexes and missed a record close by a whisker.
Investors snapped up consumer-focused stocks that haven’t done much celebrating since the election, like apparel and accessories retailers and discount store chains. Urban Outfitters is down about 11 percent the election and Gap has fallen almost that much.
“They were afterthoughts in a lot of respects,” said Julian Emanuel, an equity strategist for UBS. But Emanuel said he expects those stocks to rise this year because consumer confidence remains high.
The Dow Jones industrial average added 60.40 points, or 0.3 percent, to 19,942.16. The blue-chip index was held back by small losses from Exxon Mobil and insurer Travelers.
The S&P 500 jumped 12.92 points, or 0.6 percent, to 2,270.75. The Nasdaq composite rose 47.92 points, or 0.9 percent, to 5,477. The Russell 2000 outpaced the other indexes and advanced 22.46 points, or 1.6 percent, to 1,387.95.
Companies that sell clothes, jewelry, athletic gear and discount goods have fallen or lagged behind the market over the last two months. That changed a bit on Wednesday. Gap rose 72 cents, or 3.1 percent, to $24.20. Discount retailer Dollar Tree, which has slumped since late November, picked up $2, or 2.6 percent, to $79.45.
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