Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. The Dow Jones industrial… (Spencer Platt, Getty Images )
NEW YORK — The Dow Jones industrial average is inching closer to the psychologically important 13,000 mark, a milestone that was last hit just before the financial crisis walloped stock prices around the world.
The nation's most-watched index rose 0.4%, or 45.79 points, to 12,949.87 on Friday and gained 1.2% for the week. The advance follows a 123-point rally during the previous session that put the index within striking distance of the 13,000 level it last hit in May 2008.
Broader market indicators were mixed as traders remained cautious ahead of the three-day Presidents Day weekend. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 0.2%, or 3.19 points to 1,361.23. The technology-heavy Nasdaq composite was down 0.3%, or 8.07 points, to 2,951.78, but finished higher for the week.
Stocks have been barreling higher this year, with the Dow piling on almost 2,400 points in just four months. The breakneck pace has astonished some investors and analysts, especially amid continued concerns about sustaining the U.S. economic recovery and the European debt crisis.
"Four months ago we were talking double-dip recession and Europe was going to bring a down slide, but now it doesn't look that way at all," said Ryan Detrick, an analyst at Schaeffers Investment Research in Cincinnati.
Wall Street has another opportunity to crack 13,000 when the New York Stock Exchange opens again Tuesday. Investors are also looking for a few other milestones -- the Nasdaq is closing in on 3,000 and the S&P 500 is nearing 1,400.
And the Russell 2000 index, which reflects the performance of smaller companies, has been up 35% since early October and is close to an all-time high of its own. The index edged slightly lower Friday, though it finished the week in positive territory.
Investors have been paying particularly close attention to the Nasdaq, which has been bolstered by this year's rally in technology stocks.
For example, Apple Inc. shares surpassed $500 on Monday, making Apple the most valuable publicly traded company.
The composite is still light-years away from the peak of the dot-com boom when the index hit the dizzying height of 5,048.62 on March 10, 2000. But the index is now solidly above the 2007 high mark of 2,859.12.
"The Nasdaq has been making new 11-year highs here," Detrick said. "That's a good sign."