The stock market broke through to new heights on Friday, with the S&P 500 index finally hitting a record after weeks of bumping up against its previous peak.

The index, one of the most widely watched Wall Street benchmarks and a cornerstone of many portfolios, rose 1.2 percent to close above the high that was set in January 2022.

The record followed a staggering rally in the final months of 2023, as investors seized on signs of slowing inflation and signals from the Federal Reserve that it could begin to lift the brakes off the economy by cutting interest rates. But after coming within a hair of the high in late December, the market lost some momentum as some measures of inflation continued to run hot, crucial shipping lanes in the Middle East came under attack and fears that the market had climbed too far too fast lingered.

The rally that finally pushed stocks over the edge was rooted in gains among influential tech stocks like Apple, Microsoft, Meta and Nvidia, though the ferocious rally that lifted the valuations of these companies last year has become more mixed in 2024. On Friday, a closely followed survey of consumers showed a big rise in economic confidence paired with muted expectations for inflation, bolstering hopes for the economy.

A market high won’t eliminate anxiety about a potential recession or the risk that interest rates stay high longer than investors currently expect, said Tom Logue, a strategist at Commonwealth Financial Network. But it will help maintain some optimism on Wall Street, he said.

“To the everyday investor, to the retail investor, it’s a positive thing,” Mr. Logue said. “Psychologically, it has an impact in people’s heads when prices hit an all-time high.”


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