Wall Street closes at fresh highs

AAP, with a staff reporter

United States stocks closed higher, allowing the Dow and S&P 500 to reach fresh record highs, following gains in leading foreign markets and a solid report on consumer sentiment.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed up 121.18 points, or 0.80 per cent, to 15,354.40 points.

The broad-based S&P 500 increased 15.65 points, or 0.95 per cent,  to close at 1,666.12 points.

The tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index jumped 33.72 points, or 0.97 per cent, to close at 3,498.97 points.

US shares closed higher for the fourth consecutive week. For the week, the Dow rose 1.5 per cent, the S&P 500 advanced two per cent and the Nasdaq added 1.7 per cent.

Leading indices in France, Germany, Britain were higher and most Asian markets gained.

Briefing.com analyst Patrick O'Hare noted that several major companies reported weaker-than-expected earnings, but the "buy-the-dip trade looks set to go again today" after Thursday's losses.

The University of Michigan's index on consumer sentiment in May came in at 83.7, above the 78.5 estimated by analysts.

Department-store chain J.C. Penney sank 2.6 per cent after reporting that first-quarter net losses more than doubled from a year ago, to $US348 million ($A356.10 million).

The retailer recently rehired former chief executive Myron Ullman to try to lure back customers after a failed makeover attempt.

Computer company Dell was essentially flat after reporting a 79 per cent drop in quarterly profits to $US130 million. Revenues fell from the company's end-user computing segment, but were somewhat better in servers and software.

The company is embroiled in a tough fight with Carl Icahn over a proposed private takeover led by company founder Michael Dell.

Industrial heavyweight Caterpillar picked up 1.0 per cent after announcing an agreement to cut $US135 million from the price of its acquisition of a Chinese mining equipment firm ERA Mining Machinery following allegations ERA inflated its financial results.

Nordstrom dipped 2.8 per cent after reporting earnings per share of 73 US cents, three cents shy of analyst expectations. Business was "particularly soft" in the first two months of the quarter, but picked up in April, the upscale department-store chain said.

Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year US Treasury rose to 1.90 per cent from 1.87 per cent late on Thursday, while the 30-year increased to 3.12 per cent from 3.09 per cent. Bond prices move inversely to yields.