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Wall Street scores best month since February, S&P sets record close
Last Updated: 2014-08-30 07:20 | Xinhua
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U.S. stocks ended higher Friday, with the S&P 500 setting another record closing high above 2,000 points, as upbeat consumer sentiment data offset disappointing personal consumption report.

The S&P 500 rose 6.63 points, or 0.33 percent, to close at 2, 003.37 points, a fresh record close above the psychologically important level of 2,000. The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 18.88 points, or 0.11 percent, to 17,098.45. The Nasdaq Composite Index jumped 22.58 points, or 0.50 percent, to 4,580.27.

For the week, the three major stock indices logged their fourth consecutive weekly gains, after the S&P 500 hit the milestone level of 2,000 points for the first time early this week and the blue-chip Dow refreshed its all-time intraday high.

In August, the Dow gained 3.2 percent, the S&P 500 up 3.8 percent and the Nasdaq rising 4.8 percent, marking their best monthly performance since February. The S&P 500 also posted its best August gain in 14 years.

On the economic front, U.S. consumer sentiment jumped to the highest level since July 2007, according to data released Friday. The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan's final reading of the consumer sentiment index registered 82.5 in August from 81.8 in July, beating market expectations.

Meanwhile, U.S. personal consumption expenditures edged down 0. 1 percent in July, the first decline since January, as personal income rose 0.2 percent in July following a 0.5-percent increase in June, said the Commerce Department.

Escalating tensions in Ukraine continued to weigh on the market. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen on Friday expressed strong solidarity with Ukraine after an extraordinary meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission.

"Despite Moscow's hollow denials, it is now clear that Russia troops and equipment have illegally crossed the border into eastern and south-eastern Ukraine," Rasmussen said.

Moreover, Britain on Friday raised its international terrorist threat level from "substantial" to "severe." British Home Secretary Theresa May said the increase in the threat level is related to developments in Syria and Iraq where terrorist groups are planning attacks against the West.

The CBOE Volatility Index, often referred to as Wall Street's fear gauge, slipped 0.58 percent to end at 11.98.

Trading volume was thin ahead of the Labor Day holiday weekend, as U.S. financial markets will be closed Monday.

In other markets, the U.S. dollar advanced against major currencies Friday. The euro weakened moderately versus the dollar ahead of the European Central Bank (ECB)'s monetary policy meeting next week.

Analysts believed the ECB is unlikely to further ease monetary policy after official data showed the eurozone's inflation stood at 0.3 percent in August, in line with market expectation.

In late New York trading, the euro fell to 1.3134 dollars from 1.3183 dollars of the previous session. The greenback bought 104. 10 Japanese yen, higher than 103.67 yen of the previous session.

Gold futures on the COMEX division of the New York Mercantile Exchange retreated as the dollar remained strong despite a slowdown in consumer spending and escalating Ukraine tensions.

The most active gold contract for December delivery lost 3 dollars, or 0.23 percent, to settle at 1,287.4 dollars per ounce.

Crude prices advanced. Light, sweet crude for October delivery rose 1.41 dollars to settle at 95.96 dollars a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, while Brent crude for October delivery gained 73 cents to close at 103.19 dollars a barrel.

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