U.S. Stocks at All-Time Highs as China, Europe Make Stimulus Moves

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Investors' high spirits were palpable on Friday as U.S. stocks rocketed to all-time highs on decisive action from Europe and China to stimulate flagging growth in their regions.

The S&P 500 was up 0.73%, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was gaining 0.74%, and the Nasdaq was at its highest level in 14 years, up 0.63%. If momentum can be sustained through to the market close, the S&P and Dow will net new record closing highs after lifting the bar again on Thursday and would close out a fifth week of gains.

The European Central Bank announced it had started buying asset-backed securities in a move to ease monetary policy and resuscitate growth in the eurozone. European markets were rocketing higher, with Germany's DAX gaining as much as 2.1%, as the ECB made its announcement via Twitter.

"Following publication of legal act on the implementation of the ABS purchase programme, the Eurosystem has started the purchases on 21/11/2014," the central bank said.

Markets were already on a tear after ECB President Mario Draghi talked of monetary easing policies in a speech. Addressing a banking conference in Frankfurt, Draghi said the eurozone's inflation was proving challenging and that the ECB was prepared to do "what we must to raise inflation and inflation expectations as fast as possible."

The eurozone has been a lingering threat to global economic strength as troubled pockets of the region teeter on the cusp of deflation, most recently seen in the weakening growth in its largest economy Germany.

Boosting Asian markets, China cut its interest rates by 25 basis points, its first rate cut in two years, as a solution to stalled growth in the world's second-largest economy. The move comes a day after the country's latest manufacturing PMI numbers fell to a six-month low. The Shanghai Composite closed 1.4% higher.

Heavy machinery and construction company Caterpillar (CAT) spiked 4.7% on news of China's stimulus measures. The company gleans 20% of total revenue from the Asia/Pacific region. Joy Global (JOY) , which manufactures mining equipment, popped 4.5%.

Oil prices eased from earlier session highs following the announcement of the stimulus measures. West Texas Intermediate crude futures for January delivery spiked 0.75% to $76.42 a barrel. Oil prices have been down in the dumps over the past few weeks as global oversupply outstripped demand.

Brazilian stocks were gaining in anticipation that former banking executive Joaquim Levy will be named the country's finance minister and herald the beginning of market-friendly initiatives for the nation. President Dilma Rousseff's pick will be named later Friday. Steelmaker Vale (VALE) surged 9% while oiler Petrobras (PBR) spiked 7.5%.

GameStop (GME) was plunging 14.1% after the games retail chain reported a 2.3% drop in comparable-store sales, due to the delayed launch of popular game "Assassins Creed Unity."

Software companies Splunk (SPLK) and Autodesk (ADSK) were popping 5.6% and 7.5%, respectively, after posting better-than-expected third quarters.  

-- Written by Keris Alison Lahiff in New York.

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