S&P 500 Holds at Record Highs as Global Optimism Gives Support

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The S&P 500 maintained record highs on Monday as global optimism surrounding stimulus measures from China's central bank and the European Central Bank and a holiday-shortened week kept investors in a positive mood.

"The seasonality has a bullish tilt," Raymond James' chief investment strategist Jeffrey D. Saut wrote in a note. "I have learned the hard way that it is difficult to sell stocks off during the ebullient period between Thanksgiving and Christmas ... Thanksgiving week also has a bullish bias with a gain for the week of +0.64% two-thirds of the time."

In afternoon trading, the S&P 500 rose 0.21% and the Nasdaq surged 0.77%.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped slightly from its record highs, down 0.03%. Verizon (VZ) was one of the worst performers of the index after receiving a downgrade from Citigroup's Michael Rolling on concerns the "wireless industry is experiencing a great disconnect between the growth in data traffic and the growth in revenue." Verizon dropped 1.6% while peer AT&T  (T) fell 1.8%.

United Technologies (UTX) was also dragging on the Dow, down 1.4% after CEO Louis Chenevert announced his retirement, effective immediately. Chief Financial Officer Gregory Hayes will assume the position.

International markets climbed as investors continued to celebrate news last week of an unexpected interest rate cut from China's central bank and the European Central Bank's commitment to growth-boosting stimulus measures. Asian markets finished Monday's session higher with China's Shanghai Composite spiking to a three-year high and Hong Kong's Hang Seng popping nearly 2%.

European markets were mixed, though Germany's DAX and France's CAC 40 added 0.54% and 0.5%, respectively. Investors on the two markets were buying after German business confidence increased for the first time in seven months, beating forecasts.

"This is the first time that this item has moved in the right direction since April," economist Stephen Guilfoyle wrote in a blog post. "Mixing that in with Mario Draghi's recently dovish posture, and folks are going to give a darn."

The Dallas Fed Manufacturing Survey scored a reading of 10.5 in November, beating a forecast of 9. Texas business executives said Texas factory activity increased again over the month. The major piece of economic data out this week will be third-quarter real GDP on Tuesday. An initial snapshot put GDP growth at 3.5% for the quarter. Deutsche Bank analysts predict minimal revisions to the data. 

Small-cap Prosensa Holding (RNA) was the best performer on the Nasdaq after BioMarin Pharmaceuticals (BMRN) said it would buy the drug developer for $840 million. Shares exploded 63.1%.

NYSE-listed property insurance company Platinum Underwriters (PTP) rocketed 20% higher after RenaissanceRe Holdings  (RNR) agreed to buy the company for about $1.9 billion. 3D Systems (DDD) added 7.4% after agreeing to buy micro-cap Cimatron (CIMT) for $97 million. Shares of software company Cimatron surged 42.6%.

--Written by Keris Alison Lahiff in New York.