Stock indexes close higher, breaking a three-day slump

U.S. stocks rebounded Thursday, snapping a three-day losing streak for the Dow Jones industrial average and the Standard & Poor's 500 index.

Encouraging data on the U.S. job market and inflation helped lift the market, pushing the S&P 500 to a record high. The Dow came within 36 points of its own record. The indexes are up for the month and year.

Technology and consumer staples stocks were among the biggest gainers. The price of U.S. oil fell on continuing concerns about high global supplies.

The Dow rose 191.75 points, or 1.1%, to 18,252.24. The S&P 500 index gained 22.62 points, or 1.1%, to 2,121.10. That's three points higher than its previous closing high of 2,117.69 on April 24.

The Nasdaq composite added 69.10 points, or 1.4%, to 5,050.80.

The 10 sectors in the S&P 500 closed higher, with technology stocks leading the pack. The sector is up 4.8% this year.

“We've been at roughly this level of the S&P for almost three months,” said David Lefkowitz, senior equity strategist at UBS Wealth Management Americas. “We're up 1% today and that's a decent move.”

After a mostly downbeat week in the markets, trading got off to a strong start early Thursday as investors weighed the two Labor Department reports.

The government said fewer people applied for unemployment aid last week, pushing the four-week average down to its lowest level since April 2000. Unemployment benefit applications are a proxy for layoffs, so the very low level is evidence that Americans are enjoying more job security.

It is also a sign employers are confident enough in the economy to hold on to their employees, despite signs of sluggish growth.

A separate index that tracks the prices of goods and services before they reach consumers declined 0.4% last month. That could signal that the Federal Reserve will hold off on raising its key interest rate until this fall, said Erik Davidson, chief investment officer for Wells Fargo Private Bank.

“Inflation is not a big issue,” he said. “The market consensus has to be that it will be September or later that the Fed will move.”

Investors are trying to gauge when the Federal Reserve will move to raise short-term interest rates for the first time in more than six years. The central bank has said it wants to see annual inflation heading toward 2%, a sign of a healthier economy.

Beyond economic data, traders had their eye on the latest batch of corporate earnings and deal news.

Ctrip.com International surged 8.8% after the Chinese travel services company reported better-than-expected first-quarter financial results and a strong outlook. The stock gained $5.78 to $71.14.

Traders also bid up shares in Perry Ellis International. The clothing maker's first-quarter earnings trumped Wall Street forecasts and the company also raised its earnings forecast for the year. Perry Ellis climbed $2.06, or 8.6%, to $26.09.

Some companies' latest financial results failed to live up to expectations.

Kohl's plunged 13.3% after the retailer reported that its first-quarter revenue and a key sales measure fell short of Wall Street's forecasts, even as the company posted a better-than-expected profit for the quarter. The stock lost $9.89 to $64.62.

In energy trading, benchmark U.S. crude oil fell 62 cents to close at $59.88 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oil used by many U.S. refineries, fell 22 cents to close at $66.59 in London.

Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.24% from 2.29% late Wednesday.

Wholesale gasoline rose 1.7 cents to close at $2.058 a gallon, while heating oil rose 0.1 cent to close at $2.006 a gallon. Natural gas rose 7.3 cents to close at $3.008 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Precious and industrial metals futures closed mixed. Gold edged up $7 to $1,225.20 an ounce, silver rose 24 cents to $17.47 an ounce and copper edged down less than a penny to $2.92 a pound.

 

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