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Stocks edge up: Apple hits record high; Facebook, record low

Stocks on the S&P 500 index are close to a four-year high while a closely watched fear index briefly touches five-year low.

By Angela MoonReuters / August 17, 2012

Specialists Thomas Bishop, left, and Michael Pistillo work at their post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange Wednesday. Stocks edged up Friday, Aug. 17, 2012, within striking distance of a four-year high. But volume was light.

Richard Drew/AP

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NEW YORK

The S&P 500 held near a four-year high on Friday, and the market's key gauge of anxiety sank to its lowest since 2007, suggesting a belief that the problems stressing investors might be closer to a resolution.

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The Nasdaq outperformed the broader market as Apple shares reached an all-time high. The CBOE VIX volatility index hit a 5-year low of 13.43 before closing down 5.9 percent at 13.45.

The S&P 500 made a solid move above the closely watched 1,400 level in the last session, posting its biggest gain in two weeks. But trading volume remained low.

"From a sentiment point of view, the market has little to inhibit it from proceeding higher," said Ralph Edwards, director of derivatives strategy at ITG in New York.

"The best rallies are, of course, the broadest, so it makes sense to view, in real-time, the stocks that are propelling the index so as to make sure that the advance is not just being carried on the shoulders of one sector. Here, the news is also good."

Edwards noted that 47 S&P 500 stocks in all industry groups except for utilities have recently hit a 52-week high, among them Home Depot Inc, PepsiCo Inc, Chevron Corp , SunTrust Banks Inc, Covidien Plc, 3M Co , Google Inc, CF Industries Holdings and Sprint Nextel Corp.

With few news headlines and light participation during summer holidays, traders are increasingly taking their cues from market technicals. The S&P 500 needs to close above 1,419.04, the index's April high, to make a new four-year high.

Shares in Apple Inc jumped to an all-time intraday high of $648.19 earlier in the session. The stock ended up 1.8 percent at $648.11. The Broker Jefferies raised its price target on the stock to $900 from $800 and gave it a 'buy' rating.

But Facebook shares continued to slide after the expiration of a lockup period on some of the company's stock following its initial public offering. The shares fell as low as $19 a share on Friday.

Groupon Inc also slumped to a new low on Friday after Evercore Partners analyst Ken Sena downgraded shares of the largest daily deal company and set a $3 price target on the stock. The stock closed down 5 percent at $4.75, after falling as low as $4.51.

The Dow Jones industrial average was up 25.09 points, or 0.19 percent, at 13,275.20. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was up 2.65 points, or 0.19 percent, at 1,418.16. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 14.20 points, or 0.46 percent, at 3,076.59.

For the week, the Dow was up 0.5 percent, the S&P 500 was up 0.9 percent and the Nasdaq was up 1.8 percent.

The S&P 500 has risen 2.8 percent in August and about 11 percent since a year low in June as traders eye some encouraging U.S. jobs data and highly anticipated policy meetings at the European Central Bank and the Federal Reserve in September.

The economic data on Wednesday was mixed, leaving investors wondering if the recovery was real.

The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment survey for August showed the main index rose to its highest since May to 73.6, buoyed by sales at retailers and low mortgage rates.

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