Just after trading opened on Wall Street on Thursday, the Dow Jones industrial average swept past the 24,000 milestone for the first time.
Stocks are responding to strong economic signals that show consumer confidence at a nearly 17-year high and promising results from retailers in the thick of the holiday shopping season. The milestone also reflects the broader business optimism about rising profits and the potential for lighter regulation.
The blue chip stock index gained as much as 130 points in the first hour, continuing a stock rally that has sent investor holdings soaring through much of the year. The Dow passed the 22,000 milestone in August.