March 14 - Summary of business headlines: Blue chips set record close for eighth day, S&P 500 two points shy of historic peak; Samsung and Apple square off in smartphone war; Amazon falls on profit growth concerns. Conway G. Gittens reports.
A good old fashion nail bitter. The S&P 500 comes within two points of an all-time closing high. When the final bell sounded, the index was at 15-63, right below that 15-65 record close. The Dow rallies to yet another record in the longest winning streak since November 1996. The latest rally - fueled by another surprise drop in weekly jobless claims. Shorter unemployment lines are feeding hopes consumers will spend more, the economy will improve, and profit growth will support this rally. Lazard Capital Markets' Art Hogan: SOUNDBITE: ART HOGAN, CHIEF MARKET ANALYST, LAZARD CAPITAL MARKETS (ENGLISH) SAYING: "We're up about 25 percent over the last 12 months. We're up 15 percent since the lows of December. So, it's a market that really, because of its excesses, got investors waiting on the sideline for that ultimate pullback that just does not want to come." It's a big day in the smartphone battle. Samsung takes the wraps off its Galaxy S4. Last year it took the crown as the world's top smartphone maker from Apple. But Apple is not taking the challenge lying down. Phil Schiller, Apple's marketing chief, says Samsung buyers may be getting a new phone, but they won't be getting a new operating system. Not so - he says - when Apple puts out its new products. By the way, shares of Apple upgraded on belief the company will get its "mojo" back. Shares of Apple gained less than a full percent. Samsung and Google edged lower ahead of the launch. Amazon took a hit from a downgrade by JP Morgan. There is concern Amazon's profit growth will slow due to a number of factors, including increased sales of the Kindle Fire tablets. Amazon sells the device at a low price, with hopes of making up sales with digital downloads. By the way, Amazon announced a price cut on bigger models on Thursday. Investors cut the stock down by a measure of more than 3 percent. Finally, European shares touched a 4-1/2 year high as a big Italian insurer vows to clean up its books.