But the overall sentiment was cautious ahead of Friday's
all-important U.S. nonfarm payrolls report and tensions between
Ukraine and Russia.
The CBOE Volatility Index or VIX <.VIX>, Wall Street's so-called
fear gauge, ended up 2.3 percent at 14.21.The VIX generally moves
inversely to the performance of the S&P 500 and is often used to
hedge against a market decline.
Trading volume was also lower than average, with about 6.4 billion
shares traded on U.S. exchanges, according to data from BATS Global
Markets, below the daily average of about 7 billion in the past
"We had a bit of a selloff in midday session and late afternoon, but
the fact the S&P 500 managed to set another record shows how much
resistance this market has to geopolitical overhang that is clearly
not over, resistance to bad news," said Tim Ghriskey, chief
investment officer of Solaris Asset Management in Bedford Hills, New
Thursday's milestone marked the S&P 500's fourth record closing high
over the past six sessions.
Weekly applications for U.S. unemployment insurance fell to 323,000,
the lowest in three months, a sign of strength in a labor market
that has been hobbled by severe weather. New orders for U.S. factory
goods, however, fell more than expected in January and shipments
also slipped, adding to signs of a recent slowdown in manufacturing
Friday's nonfarm payrolls report, due at 8:30 a.m. EST, is likely to
show job growth in the United States picked up enough in February to
encourage the Federal Reserve to continue scaling back its monetary
stimulus. But the gain was likely to be tepid, given the
unrelentingly harsh winter.
The day's biggest gainers were stocks in basic materials, financial
and industrial sectors, often associated with strong economic
fundamentals. The S&P basic materials index <.SPLRCM> was up 0.4
percent, the S&P financial index <.SPSY> was up 0.7 percent and the
S&P industrials index <.SPLRCI> was up 0.6 percent.
But the Nasdaq 100 <.NDX> fell 0.2 percent, led lower by Staples <SPLS.O>,
which lost 15.3 percent to $11.35. The largest U.S. office supplies
retailer forecast a decline in sales. Staples also said it would
close up to 225 stores in the United States and Canada by 2015.
[to top of second column]
The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> rose 61.71 points or 0.38
percent, to end at 16,421.89. The S&P 500 <.SPX> gained 3.22 points
or 0.17 percent, to finish at 1,877.03. The Nasdaq Composite <.IXIC>
dropped 5.848 points or 0.13 percent, to close at 4,352.125.
Crimea's parliament voted to join Russia and its Moscow-backed
government set a referendum for 10 days' time on the decision in a
dramatic escalation of the crisis in the Ukrainian Black Sea
U.S. President Barack Obama took steps to punish those involved in
threatening Ukraine while European Union leaders agreed to suspend
visa and investment talks with Russia.
An index of Moscow stocks <.MCX> lost more than 2 percent after the
vote in Crimea, but pared the losses and closed down 1 percent. The
ruble weakened 0.3 percent versus the U.S. dollar. A U.S.-traded
Russian ETF <RSX.P> fell 1.1 percent to $23.37.
The European Central Bank decided not to take any action at its
meeting on Thursday because economic and monetary conditions had not
changed enough to warrant it. The euro hit its highest level against
the U.S. dollar since late December.
Among individual stocks, Costco Wholesale Corp <COST.O> dropped 2.8
percent to $113.26 after the warehouse retailer reported a
bigger-than-expected 15 percent decline in quarterly profit as
unusually deep discounting in the holiday shopping season hurt
(Editing by Nick Zieminski and Jan
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