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Stocks extend winning streak: Best four-week stretch since 2011

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock ExchangeTraders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange

The U.S. stock market went more or less flat on Friday but a fourth straight week of gains marked the best four-week period for the market since December 2011.

Stocks continued to approach record highs on Friday as oil prices rebounded slightly and the Commerce Department released a strong October retail report that showed consumer spending increased because of low gasoline prices and a stronger job market.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished the day down slightly, by about 18 points to 17,635. But the index had hit yet another record close on Thursday, as well as an all-time intraday high. The Dow posted three new record closes in five days during the week.

Both the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq composite finished Friday just barely in positive territory, but that was still good enough to give the S&P its own record close — also its third of the week. The Nasdaq, meanwhile, is at its highest point since 2000.

The past four weeks have seen a strong rebound for the market after what was an incredibly volatile start to the year’s fourth quarter. In early October, the Dow Jones briefly turned negative for the year amid a massive market-wide sell-off that saw stocks plummet in response to investors’ concerns over the slowing global economy as well as potential interest rate hikes from the U.S. Federal Reserve. Stocks have been rising steadily since the end of October, though, thanks to a mix of positive signs for the U.S. economy along with several strong quarterly earnings reports and news that the Bank of Japan had increased its stimulus program to lift that country’s economy.

The Dow Jones and S&P 500 are both up around 9.5% over the past four weeks while the Nasdaq has gained a whopping 11.2% over that period.