Stocks traded mixed after slightly disappointing economic data, but all the major indexes hit multi-years on Thursday after gaining steadily throughout the week.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose more than 60 points after rallying to a new record high again on Thursday, despite slow first-quarter growth figuresand disappointing weekly jobless claims.
Among Dow components, Caterpillar, Boeing gained, while Microsoft and Alcoa fell.
The S&P 500 rose slightly, while the Nasdaq fell slightly. Both indexes also hit new multi-year highs on Thursday. The CBOE Volatility Index, widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market,rose slightly above 14.
Among key S&P 500 sectors, industrials and materials rose, while telecom and utilities fell.
Traders caught their breath Friday after a week filled with earnings announcements, economic news and an unprecedented press conference by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.
The upshot was stocks rallied to levels not seen for up to three years or more. Aside from the major indexes, the Russell 2000 Index of small cap stocks and the Dow Jones Transportation Index both hit all-time highs. That was despite news on Thursday that the economy slowed in the first quarter, and that jobless claims remained above 400,000 for a third straight week. Steady job growth occurs when claims are less than 400,000.
The market shrugged off news of slowing first quarter growth because it was already expected, given unusually bad winter weather, unrest in the Middle East and the multiple catastrophes in Japan, said Phil Orlando, chief market strategist at Federated Investors.
But none of these events is considered long-lasting, and Federated, along with other market observers, expect the U.S. economy will continue to grow.
"Much like a year ago, I think this is going to prove to be a temporary soft patch, not an inflection point leading to a double-dip recession," Orlando said.
Meanwhile, corporate earnings are good, and stock valuations remain reasonable, so the market is likely to continue rising, he said. Federated expected the S&P to hit 1,350 by the middle of this year, which it did this past week. Now the investment firm sees the broad-market index gaining another 5 to 10 percent at most before the end of the year.
"Stock price performance and valuation will be much more of a grind over the next year or two from here versus the surge over the last two years," Orlando said.