US stocks enjoyed a strong end to the week Friday as the Dow Jones industrial average finished the session above 14,000 for the first time since October 2007, before the onset of the worst economic downturn in the US since the Great Depression. In fact, at 14,010, the Dow is now just 188 points below its all-time highest close of 14,198 set on October 12th, 2007. The S&P 500, meanwhile, also finished at its highest level since 2007 and is about 4 percent shy of its highest level ever. The Nasdaq enjoyed a 1.2 percent upswing on Friday, but is still well below historical highs.
The stock gains on Friday, like those of the last two weeks, have come on the strength of a series of stellar corporate earnings from US companies. Positive readings on the housing market, manufacturing and consumer sentiment also helped boost investors' moods. The US Labor Department reported early in the day that the economy added a worse-than-expected 157,000 jobs last month, but the reading was overshadowed by some steep revisions to data for the last few months of 2012. The revisions mean that the economy added 335,000 more jobs than previously thought last year. Investors appeared to focus heavily on those revisions, even though the unemployment rate ticked up from 7.8 percent to 7.9 percent.
Elsewhere, the Institute for Supply Management offered a better-than-expected reading on the critical manufacturing sector, and consumer confidence came in at a reading of 73.8 this month, well ahead of the 71.4 reading economists were expecting, according to a report from Thomson Reuters and the University of Michigan. Exxon Mobil and Merck were among a handful of companies reporting stronger-than-expected fourth quarter earnings on Friday, and shares of Google reached an all-time high of $776.60 a share after posting solid results earlier this week. Shares of computer maker Dell surged nearly 5 percent on the day after a report the company was in talks to go private as early as Monday. If the deal hoes through, it would be the largest M&A deal since the end of the recession.