By Adam Shell and Kim Hjelmgaard, USA TODAY
NEW YORK - U.S. stocks kicked off the new week on Wall Street in record-setting mode, with the blue-chip Dow Jones industrial average topping 16,000 for the first time.
The market achieved another key milestones as well in early trading. The benchmark Standard & Poor's 500 index opened higher, topping the 1800 level for the first time in its history. Both the Dow and S&P 500 have been trading a tad above and below these key milestones in morning trading.
The Nasdaq composite began the session within 15 points of 4000, a level it hasn't seen since the tech stock bubble burst in 2000.
Investors are wondering if these three market milestones will act as "speed bumps" or whether the new levels will become a fresh level of support, or floor, for the market, noted Todd Salamone of Schaeffer's Investment Research.
Big round numbers like Dow 16,000 are often viewed by investors as a time to reassess the market's condition. And it is not unusual for stocks to suffer from profit-taking at these key levels.
There is a "gravitational pull" around "new round numbers," Bruce Bittles, chief investment strategist at R.W. Baird told clients in a research note.
In afternoon trading, the Dow was up 0.3% to 16,005 and the S&P 500 gained 0.1% to 1799. The Nasdaq was down 0.2% to 3980.
In China, a major benchmark stock index raced higher on the country's economic and social reform push, which is also providing a lift to investor sentiment.
Virtually all stocks are participating in the rally. The benchmark S&P 500 stock index currently has more than 80% of its stocks trading above its average price over the past 50 days, a statistic that confirms the market uptrend is broad based, according to Bespoke Investment Group.
The gains in 2013 have been eye-popping. Heading into the week, the S&P 500, which has passed $16 trillion in market value for the first time, was up 26.1%, putting it on track for its best year since 2003.
The Shanghai composite rose 2.9% to 2,197.22. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index also saw sharp gains, rising 2.7% to 23,660.06.
There is likely to be investor caution ahead of the release of October retail sales, home sales and inflation data this week that will reflect the strength of the U.S. economy. The Federal Reserve is also expected to release the minutes of its last meeting on Wednesday, which will give further clues on the timing for tapering, analysts said.
Investors are also anxiously awaiting third-quarter earnings reports from key retailers to get a better gauge the outlook for holiday sales. On Tuesday, electronics seller Best Buy reports, as does home improvement retailer Home Depot. On Wednesday, troubled department store retailer JC Penney reports, as well as another home improvement play Lowe's. On Thursday, Target, apparel retailer Gap and Dollar Tree report.
On Friday, the Dow gained 0.5% to close at a record 15,961.70. The S&P 500 rose 0.4% to close at an all-time high of 1,798.18. The Nasdaq gained 0.3% to 3,985.97.
Stocks have been largely buoyant over the past few trading sessions, with some major U.S. indexes striking all-time highs. The catalyst to the latest advance has been Janet Yellen, who is slated to become the next chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve. In a confirmation hearing last Thursday, she expressed strong support for the Fed's low interest-rate policies, which have contributed to the gains in stock markets over the past few years.
Wall Street is also watching for clues to see when it will begin dialing pack, or tapering, its bond-buying program.
"Investors appear to believe that the next Fed meeting will not be looking to taper asset purchases," said Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets.
After regional stock markets closed Friday, Beijing announced more details of economic and social reforms including opening state industries to greater competition, loosening its one child policy, and abolishing its hated labor camps.
Elsewhere in Asia, Tokyo's Nikkei 225 fell 0.01% to 15,164.30 and South Korea's Kospi was up 0.3% to 2,010.81.
European stocks were also higher. Britain's FTSE 100 gained 0.5% to 6,723.46 and Germany's DAX index rose 0.6% to 9,225.43. France's CAC 40 index added 0.7% to 4,320.68.
In energy markets, benchmark crude oil for February delivery was down 84 cents at $93.00 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 8 cents to close at $93.84 on Friday.
The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.68% from 2.71%.
Contributing: Associated Press