NEW YORK (Reuters) — U.S. stocks rose
on Thursday, with the Dow and S&P 500 ending at record highs as
retail shares rallied following strong data about the holiday
In a positive sign for economic growth, initial jobless claims fell
42,000 in the latest week, dropping to 338,000 — the lowest level in
nearly a month. Analysts had expected 345,000 new claims.
Retail stocks stayed in the spotlight as the holiday shopping season
drew to a close. Data published by MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse
said sales between November 1 and December 24 rose 2.3 percent,
bucking concerns that the season had been weak.
The S&P retail index <.SPXRT> jumped 0.8 percent. The stock of Urban
Outfitters <URBN.O> rose 2.2 percent to $37.55 and was one of the
S&P 500's biggest percentage gainers. Online retailer Amazon.com Inc
<AMZN.O> gained 1.3 percent to $404.39. Wal-Mart Stores Inc <WMT.N>,
a Dow component, added 0.5 percent to $78.39.
"I don't get why we seem to have an eternally upward market, but it
looks like that's what we have," said Kim Forrest, senior equity
research analyst at Fort Pitt Capital Group in Pittsburgh. "There's
no reason to sell stocks, but also not much reason to buy except for
that fact that we continue to be poised to go higher."
The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> jumped 122.33 points, or
0.75 percent, to end at 16,479.88, a record closing high. The
Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> gained 8.70 points, or 0.47
percent, to finish at 1,842.02, also a record closing high. The
Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> shot up 11.76 points, or 0.28
percent, to close at 4,167.18.
The Dow rose to a record closing high for the sixth straight
session, the longest winning streak for the blue-chip average since
March. The S&P 500 scored its fourth record closing high in a row.
The Dow climbed to an all-time intraday high of 16,483, while the
S&P 500 hit a record intraday high of 1,842.84.
Volume, though, was light in the first full day of trading since
Monday. Markets were closed on Wednesday for Christmas Day. U.S.
stock trading ended early on Tuesday.
About 3.3 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges, well below
the 6.2 billion average so far this month, according to data from
BATS Global Markets.
"The path of least resistance, as we tread water, seems to be
trending higher," said Justin Wiggs, managing director at Stifel
Nicolaus in Baltimore. "We're pacing very light on volume."
About 51 percent of stocks traded on the New York Stock Exchange
closed higher on the day, while 49 percent of Nasdaq-listed shares
ended in positive territory.
Energy shares also climbed. Exxon Mobil Corp <XOM.N> shot up 1.7
percent to end at $100.90 and helped boost the Dow. Chevron Corp <CVX.N>,
another Dow component, rose 1.1 percent to close at $124.81.
The S&P 500 has soared 29.2 percent this year, largely due to
stimulus from the U.S. Federal Reserve. The index is on track for
its best year since 1997. The Dow has gained 25.8 percent in 2013
while the Nasdaq has jumped 38 percent.
In another black eye for the retail industry, the hackers who
attacked Target Corp <TGT.N> and compromised up to 40 million credit
cards and debit cards also managed to steal encrypted personal
identification numbers, a senior payments executive told Reuters.
The discount store chain's stock rose 1.3 percent to end at $62.48,
though it remained down 1.7 percent from its close on December 18.
In the telecom sector, sources close to the matter told Reuters that
Japan's SoftBank Corp <9984.T> was in talks to buy T-Mobile US Inc <TMUS.N>.
Shares of T-Mobile US traded at their highest levels since 2007,
gaining 2.3 percent to close at $32.93, just off an intraday high of
In the bond market, U.S. benchmark Treasuries yields edged higher
and were just below their two-year high of 3 percent. Analysts said
that if yields stay at that level for an extended period, it might
be a negative for stocks and other risky assets.
(Additional reporting by Ryan
Vlastelica; editing by Jan Paschal)