Stocks continued to grind higher Thursday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average extending its winning streak to double-digits while the S&P 500 also closed high to pull within two points of its all-time top. The markets started the session in the green and stayed there for the duration after the Labor Department announced another drop in new jobless claims for the week ended March 9. Energy stocks were the sector leader, rising well over 1% as a group, followed by gains for shares of materials and technology companies. Healthcare and consumer discretionary stocks were the relative laggards, ending little changed.
The Dow is enjoying its longest uninterrupted advance since 1996, closing over 80 points higher and setting yet another all-time high. The broader S&P 500 Index also inched closer to its best-ever close of 1,565, closing within close range of its all-time record set in October 2007.
The latest catalyst for equities was fewer Americans seeking unemployment benefits last week, according to data released Thursday by the Labor Department. The four-week average, which is a more stable indicator, fell to 346,750, the lowest since March 2008, several months after the economy went into decline. Most economists had expected the weekly jobless-claims figure to rise last week.
Also Thursday, the U.S. Producer Price Index rose in February by the most in five months as gasoline prices spiked, the Labor Department said in a separate report. There was, however, little sign of a broader increase in inflation pressures that could force the Fed to tighten monetary policy.
Commodities were mixed. Crude oil for April delivery followed energy stocks higher, climbing 51 cents to settle at $93.03 per barrel. May natural gas added 13 cents to close at $3.85 per 1 mln BTU. April gold gained $2.30 to $1,590.60 per ounce while May silver settled 15 cents lower at $28.77 per ounce. May copper was up a penny, settling at $3.52 per pound.
Here's Where The U.S. Markets Stood At day's End
- Dow Jones Industrials up 824 points (+0.57%) to 14,539.14
- S&P 500 up 8.71 (+0.55%) to 1,563.23
- Nasdaq Composite up 13.81 (+0.43%) to 3,258.93
- Hang Seng up 0.28%
- Shanghai China Composite up 0.28%
- FTSE 100 up 0.74%
- (+) SVA, Said its Enterovirus 71 (EV71) vaccine was 95.4% efficacious preventing hand, foot and mouth disease in infants of 6 to 35 months old during Phase III testing. EV71 also was reasonably well tolerated.
- (+) SIGM, Analysts at Needham & Co. raise their rating for the producer of semiconductor chips used in Internet protocol television applications to Buy from Hold.
- (+) CNO, Paulson & Co. discloses 7.6% active stake in an amended 13D filing Thursday with regulators, down from 9.4% after the hedge fund sold around 4.76 mln CNO shares since Feb. 25.
- (-) ETFC, Citadel Equity - which purchased an equity stake to keep the online trading firm from going under during the mortgage crisis - plans to sell 27.4 mln shares, liquidating its entire 9.6% stake. Also, KBW downgrades to Underperform from Market Perform.
- (-) BBRY, Giving back part of yesterday's 8.1% advance that followed the smartphone firm saying it secured an order for 1 mln new Z10 models from an "established partner." Shares also may be pressured by rival Samsung debuting its new Galaxy S4 phone.
- (-) SD, Strikes deal with TPG-Axon Capital, agreeing to immediately add four directors nominated by the activist hedge fund and likely leading to the ouster of CEO Tom Ward.
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