CORRECTED-US STOCKS-Wall St extends Fed gains; Apple at record
(Corrects second paragraph to note Russell 2000 neared a record peak)
* Apple, Exxon Mobil at new multi-year highs
* S&P index just 6 percent away from all-time closing high
* Shares of Staples up on possible buyout offers
* Indexes up: Dow 0.27 pct, S&P 0.38 pct, Nasdaq 0.92 pct
By Wanfeng Zhou
NEW YORK, Sept 14 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks rose for a fourth straight session on Friday, a day after the Federal Reserve launched an aggressive bond-buying program to spur the economy, a move that could keep equities buoyed in the coming months.
Shares of Apple Inc, the largest U.S. company by market value, reached an all-time high, and Exxon Mobil, the second largest, hit a new four-year high. The small-cap Russell 2000 index neared a record peak.
Equities are in the midst of a run-up in which the S&P 500 has posted gains for four consecutive months, fueled by the actions of Europe's and the United States' central banks to keep interest rates low and stimulate their struggling economies.
The Fed said Thursday that it would keep up its aggressive bond-buying until unemployment falls. Chairman Ben Bernanke said he wanted to see a convincing improvement in the economy that could deliver sustainable job creation.
Bernanke's comments are" going to create an artificial floor on the market, meaning that we could see higher prices over time," said Paul Nolte, managing director at Dearborn Partners in Chicago. "Any correction that we get will be no more than a few percentage points."
The Dow Jones industrial average gained 36.51 points, or 0.27 percent, to 13,576.37. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index rose 5.49 points, or 0.38 percent, to 1,465.48. The Nasdaq Composite Index added 29.16 points, or 0.92 percent, to 3,184.99.
The S&P is now just 6 percent below its all-time closing high of 1,565.15 despite a relatively weak economy and economic risks around the world.
Bank of America-Merrill Lynch on Friday initiated a 2013 target of 1,600 for the S&P 500, a level that would represent a new high for the benchmark index.
The target "implies a 10 percent price return, where most of the appreciation can be attributed to earnings growth of 7 percent next year," wrote Savita Subramanian, head of U.S. Equity and Quantitative Strategy.
Energy and material stocks led the gains on Friday as the Fed's move boosted commodity prices. Miner Freeport-McMoran Copper & Gold Inc rose 2.7 percent to $42.92 and aluminum company Alcoa Inc advanced 2.2 percent to $9.84. The PHLX Gold/Silver Index climbed 2.9 percent to its highest since early March.
U.S. economic data released on Friday helped justify the Fed's decision to launch a third round of bond purchases to try to lower borrowing costs and spur growth.
A jump in the cost of gasoline pushed consumer prices up in August at the fastest pace in more than three years and squeezed spending on other items, threatening to further slow the already sluggish economy. Other data showed production at factories, mines and utilities dropped by 1.2 percent, the biggest decline since March 2009.
S&P Dow Jones Indices said UnitedHealth Group Inc will replace Kraft Foods Inc in the Dow Jones industrial average after the close of trading Sept. 21. UnitedHealth shares rose 0.09 percent to $53.94 and Kraft slipped 0.5 percent to $39.93.
Home Depot, the world's largest home improvement chain, was up 2 percent to $59.50 after the company announced it will close all seven of its big box stores and cut 850 jobs in China.
Shares of Staples were up 2.6 percent to $12.27 after Fortune magazine reported that several private equity firms, including Bain Capital, are considering a buyout offer for the retailer. (Editing by Dave Zimmerman)