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Stocks stretch winning streak to 6 days

NEW YORK (AP)  Stocks closed out their strongest week in five years Friday and have now recovered more than half of the losses they suffered in a plunge at the beginning of the month. 

Investors got back to buying stocks almost as quickly as they started dumping them. The gain Friday was the sixth in a row for the Standard & Poor's 500 index. A combination of cheaper prices for stocks as well as solid company profits put investors back in a buying mood. 

The S&P 500, which many index funds track, has risen almost 6 percent in its current streak. Investors haven't hesitated to buy the same types of stocks that did well before the market's recent slump, including technology companies and banks.

In a typical market downturn, investors might avoid stocks that have had huge run-ups out of fear they had gotten too expensive. Instead, investors are still betting on more strength in the economy and are buying companies that tend to do better in times of faster growth. 

After an unusually long period of calm, stocks plunged at the start of February as investors worried about inflation and rising interest rates. The S&P 500 fell as much as 10 percent from its latest record high reached January 26. But investors weren't scared off for long.

"Rates started to stabilize and you got some better economic data, and earnings in general have been pretty good," said Sameer Samana, global equity and technical strategist for the Wells Fargo Investment Institute.

Samana said bond and credit markets showed that the fear wasn't spreading. Companies were still able to borrow at relatively low rates, which showed lenders weren't concerned the economy was weakening.

"A lot of people probably looked at stocks vs. credit and probably thought 'if credit's not feeling it, things must not be all that bad,"' he said.

The S&P 500 gained 1.02 points, or less than 0.1 percent, at 2,732.22. That includes a gain of 4.3 percent this week, its best since January 2013. 

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 19.01 points, or 0.1 percent, to 25,219.38. The Nasdaq composite lost 16.96 points, or 0.2 percent, to 7,239.47. The Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks climbed 6.35 points, or 0.4 percent, to 1,543.55.

Homebuilders rose after the Commerce Department reported that construction of new homes jumped 9.7 percent in January. That was the highest level since October 2016, and permits, a sign of future construction, also climbed. NVR gained $131.23, or 4.3 percent, to $3,208.23 while D.R. Horton rose 46 cents, or 1 percent, to $45.57.

Among health care companies, drugmaker AbbVie jumped $3.70, or 3.2 percent, to $118.60 and Johnson & Johnson rose $1.92, or 1.5 percent, to $133.15.

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