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Stocks Inch Higher; Set Records

It was another record day on Wall Street — barely.

After spending most of Friday flat or down, stocks rallied at the last minute and closed slightly higher, just enough to post new record highs for the Dow Jones industrial average and the Standard & Poor’s 500 index.

The gains were tiny. And the new record doesn’t mean much for investors, who hardly have any more money now than they did a day earlier. But it is a sign that investors believe the market’s rally this year may not be over yet.

The S&P 500 has closed higher seven days in a row. The last time it did that was in March.

Investors had to look past a pessimistic outlook from UPS, which said it was seeing a slowdown in U.S. industry. And in the afternoon, Boeing shares tanked after one of its 787s caught on fire in London, reviving fears of the troubles that plane had with smoldering batteries earlier this year.

Other economic news was mixed. Profits at big banks Wells Fargo and JP Morgan came in better than expected, and that helped financial stocks. But a University of Michigan measure of consumer sentiment came in lower than expected for this month.

Investors will get a lot more information this week, when key reports on inflation and retail sales are due. That’s also when the pace of company earnings reports picks up sharply. Results are due from the remaining big banks as well as General Electric, Intel, Microsoft and other industry bellwethers.

“This is the jump ball, this is the Lebron James of the market,” said David Darst, chief investment strategist for Morgan Stanley Individual Investor Group, referring to the second-quarter earnings rush. “It’s going to determine where the market goes.”

The Dow closed up 3.38 points, just 0.02 percent, at 15,464.30. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 5.17 points, or 0.3 percent, to 1,680.19. Both indexes also closed at all-time highs on Thursday.

The Nasdaq composite edged up 21.78 points, or 0.6 percent, to 3,600.08. It’s still well short of its record high of 5,048, set in March 2000.

The Russell 2000, which is made up of smaller companies, rose 3.35 points, or 0.3 percent, to close at 1,036.52.

All the big indexes are ahead 2 percent or more for the week.

United Parcel Service sank $5.33, or 5.8 percent, to $86.12 after saying its second-quarter and full-year earnings will be less than analysts have been expecting because the company’s customers are using cheaper shipping options. UPS also said it’s seeing a slowdown in U.S. industry.

FedEx fell, too. Its shares were down $2.11, or 2 percent, to $102.29.

Cost-cutting boosted profits at Wells Fargo, and its stock rose 74 cents, or 1.8 percent, to $42.63. JPMorgan Chase reported a 32 percent jump in profits, but its stock fell 17 cents to $54.97.

Anthony Conroy, managing director and head trader for ConvergEx Group, said JPMorgan’s credit numbers were strong. “That means the consumer’s out there spending and borrowing and propping up the whole economy, and that’s a good thing,” he said.

Conroy said he thinks it’s likely that stocks will move higher, as long as second-quarter earnings reports at least match the low expectations that investors have. “The three most important things in the next couple of weeks are earnings, earnings, and earnings,” he said.

Boeing dropped after a fire was reported on a 787 parked at Heathrow Airport, and after another 787 had to divert to a different airport. Boeing struggled earlier this year after its new 787 aircraft was grounded for more than three months because of smoldering batteries, and investors are nervous about any additional problems with the plane.

Before news of the fire broke, Boeing set a new 52-week high of $108.15 earlier Friday. The stock dropped $5.01, or 4.7 percent, to close at $101.87 on high volume. Boeing was the biggest decliner in the Dow.