S&P sets sights on new record close

<p>The S&P index was close to a new record high again today.</p>

US markets performed strongly again yesterday (August 20th) and the S&P 500 was within striking distance of setting a new record high.

It closed just shy of its current its record close of 1,987.98 and also grew to within just a handful of points of the index's intra-day high of 1,991.39, reports Reuters. Both of these records were set by the S&P on July 24th, but August has been another good month for the US markets so far.

Investors responded positively to the release of the latest minutes from the most recent two-day meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee, which took place in late July. The minutes refer to when the Fed cut its monthly bond-buying program by an additional $10 billion (£6 billion) and the organisation seems positive about the US' economic future.

"The market was absolutely being driven by the Fed. It started out strongly, then it looked like a bit of capitulation before the statement came out, and then we obviously saw a big sigh of relief," said Drew Wilson, an equity analyst at Fenimore Asset Management in Cobleskill, New York.

Stock markets in the US are now keenly awaiting the annual meeting of top central bankers in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, which is set to get underway today and will run until Saturday. Among the big hitters present at the gathering will be the new chair of the Fed Janet Yellen, who recently took over the position from Ben Bernanke.

Ms Yellen had been US president Barack Obama's preferred choice to assume leadership of the Federal Reserve she is scheduled to speak on Friday. It is expected she will air her concerns about the ongoing slack in the US labour market, although she will also highlight the success stories in the country's economic recovery.

Yesterday's trading saw the S&P 500 gain 4.91 points to finish at 1,986.51 after rising 0.25 per cent, while the Dow Jones industrial average was up by 0.35 per cent after it increased its overall value by 59.54 points to end the session at 16,979.13.

The picture was slightly less positive on the Nasdaq, which saw its value slip by 1.03 points, a drop of just 0.02 per cent, to finish at 4,526.48.

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