Stocks surged in afternoon trading Thursday, putting the Standard & Poor's 500 index on track for another all-time high. The market received a lift from new data indicating applications for unemployment aid fell last week. Technology & consumer staples stocks were among the biggest gainers.
KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average rose 181 points, or 1 percent, to 18,242 as of 2:02 p.m. Eastern time. The Standard & Poor's 500 index gained 20 points, or 1 percent, to 2,118. The Nasdaq composite added 61 points, or 1.2 percent, to 5,042.
UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS: The Labor Department said that fewer people applied for unemployment aid last week, pushing the four-week average down to its lowest level since April 2000. Applications are a proxy for layoffs, so the very low level is evidence that Americans are enjoying more job security. It is moreover a sign employers are confident enough in the economy to hold on to their employees, despite signs of sluggish growth.
p>FALLING PRICES: The government said Thursday that the producer price index, which tracks the prices of goods & services before they reach consumers, fell 0.4 percent last month. That could mean 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 huge issue," he said. "The market consensus has to be that it will be September or after that the Fed will move."
SECTOR MONIOR: The 10 sectors in the S&P 500 moved higher, with technology stocks leading the pack. The sector is up 4.6 percent this year. St. Jude Medical notched the biggest gain among stocks in the S&P 500, adding $2.76, or 3.9 percent, to $74.79.
STRONG QUARTER: Ctrip.com International surged 9.2 percent after the Chinese travel services company reported better-than-expected first-quarter financial results & a positive outlook. The stock gained $6 to $71.37.
DRESSED FOR SUCCESS: Investors bid up shares in Perry Ellis International after the clothing maker's first-quarter earnings trumped Wall Street forecasts. The company moreover raised its earnings guidance for the year. Perry Ellis climbed $1.55, or 6.5 percent, to $25.58.
TASTY SHAKES: Shares in Shake Shack jumped 4.4 percent a day after the burger chain raised its outlook for revenue for the year. The stock added $2.99 to $71.35.
SALES SLUMP: Kohl's dropped 11.8 percent after the retailer reported that its first-quarter revenue & a key sales measure fell short of Wall Street forecasts, even as the company posted a better-than-expected profit for the quarter. The stock lost $8.76 to $65.76.
DASHED EXPECTATIONS: Shares in Puma Biotechnology slumped 18.2 percent after the biotechnology company reported results from a breast cancer drug study that fell just short of Wall Street expectations. The stock lost $38.21 to $171.52.
OVERSEAS: In Europe, trading levels were low as many traders observed the Ascension Day holiday. France's CAC 40 was up 1.4 percent, while Germany's DAX added 1.8 percent. Britain's FTSE 100 inched up 0.2 percent. In Asia, Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 fell 1 percent & Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 0.1 percent. The Shanghai Composite gained 0.1 percent.
ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude oil fell 62 cents to $59.88 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
BONDS: Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.25 percent from 2.29 percent late Wednesday.
METALS: Precious & industrial metals futures closed mixed. Gold edged up $7 to $1,225.20 an ounce, silver rose 24 cents to $17.47 an ounce & copper edged down less than a penny to $2.92 a pound.
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Source: “Associated Press”