09/14/2012 04:17 pm ET Updated Nov 14, 2012

S&P 500 Just 6 Percent Away From All-Time Closing High

(Corrects paragraph 2 to Russell 2000 neared a record peak instead of hit a record)

* 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 0.2 pct, S&P 0.3 pct, Nasdaq 0.9 pct

By Aleksandra Michalska

NEW YORK, Sept 14 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks pared gains but were up for the fourth straight day on Friday on the Federal Reserve's aggressive new plan to stimulate the economy.

Apple Inc and Exxon Mobil, the two largest U.S. companies by market value, reached new highs, and 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's announcement Thursday that it would keep up its aggressive bond-buying until the labor market improved was unprecedented. It boosted the benchmark S&P 500 index to its highest close since December 2007.

"The Fed did something that is open-ended. It goes a long to help people feel a little bit more confident," said Warren West, principal at Greentree Brokerage Services.

The Dow Jones industrial average was up 28.73 points, or 0.21 percent, at 13,568.59. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was up 4.90 points, or 0.34 percent, at 1,464.89. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 29.71 points, or 0.94 percent, at 3,185.53.

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.

The Fed move pushed the dollar down 0.5 percent against other major currencies, boosting some commodities. Miner Freeport-McMoran Copper & Gold Inc rose 3.7 percent to $42.32 and aluminum company Alcoa Inc advanced 2.6 percent to $9.88. The PHLX Gold/Silver Index climbed 3.2 percent to its highest since early March.

Data on retail sales and industrial production pointed to modest economic growth in the third quarter. The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan's preliminary September consumer sentiment index rose to its highest level in four months as Americans were more upbeat about their economic and job prospects.

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 2.3 percent to $59.67 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 3.3 percent to $12.35 after Fortune magazine reported that several private equity firms, including Bain Capital, are considering a buyout offer for the retailer. (Editing by Dave Zimmerman.ixic)



The Strangest NYSE Bell Ringers