* Indexes at all-time highs, last week was best in months
* Apple rallies after iPhone deal with China Mobile
* Consumer sentiment rises in Dec, but below forecasts
* Indexes up: Dow 0.4 pct, S&P 0.4 pct, Nasdaq 0.6 pct
By Ryan Vlastelica
NEW YORK, Dec 23 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks rose Monday, advancing to all-time highs as Apple Inc surged on a distribution deal with China Mobile.
Activity is expected to be thin this week, with many market participants out for the Christmas holiday. Equity markets will close early on Tuesday and will be closed all of Wednesday. The light volume could amplify market volatility.
Tech titan Apple said Sunday it had signed a long-awaited agreement with China Mobile Ltd to sell iPhones through the world’s biggest network of mobile phone users, a deal that could add billions of dollars to its revenue.
“This is just good news, and a much bigger strategic deal than had been forecast,” said Oliver Pursche, president of the Suffern, New York-based Gary Goldberg Financial Services, which owns the stock.
“Apple is incredibly undervalued at this stage, and this deal can help it trade well beyond $600 early in 2014.”
Shares of Apple jumped 3.3 percent to $567.13 and the stock’s massive market capitalization helped lift both the S&P 500 and Nasdaq.
U.S.-listed shares of China Mobile rose 2 percent to $52.67.
The Dow Jones industrial average was up 58.57 points, or 0.36 percent, at 16,279.71. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index was up 7.27 points, or 0.40 percent, at 1,825.59. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 24.29 points, or 0.59 percent, at 4,129.03.
Both the Dow and S&P were at all-time highs, extending sharp gains from last week, the strongest for major indexes in months.
The rally was fueled by strong economic data and a U.S. Federal Reserve decision to begin trimming its stimulus program, which removed a major source of uncertainty for the market. The Fed also said its key interest rate would stay at rock-bottom longer than previously promised.
The S&P has soared about 28 percent this year, thanks largely to the Fed’s stimulus, and is on track for its best year since 1997.
In the latest economic data, a survey showed that consumer sentiment rose to its strongest in five months in December as Americans’ outlook on the economy and job prospects improved. However, the read was slightly below expectations.
Separately, a report showed November personal income rose 0.2 percent while spending rose 0.5 percent. Analysts expected both to have risen 0.5 percent. The market wasn’t impacted by the data.
Retail stocks will be in focus in the final shopping days leading up to Christmas. In a sign that this season may be a difficult one for the sector, U.S. consumers shopped less during the final weekend before Christmas despite deeper discounts, according to analytics firm RetailNext.
“We’re a little nervous about the holiday season,” said Pursche. “Sales have been strong, but there has been significant discounting going on, especially in the middle-end section. That could hurt the bottom line.”
Target Corp may see particular trouble in the wake of a massive data breach. The Wall Street Journal reported that the retailer suffered reduced customer traffic over the weekend, which is one of the busiest of the year. Shares fell 1.1 percent to $6.182.