U.S. Stocks Higher After Robust Economic Data

By Michael Wursthorn Features Dow Jones Newswires

Strong economic data helped push stocks higher on Thursday, extending a streak of monthly advances for major indexes.

Continue Reading Below

Gains were broad, with all but two sectors of the S&P 500 ending higher for the day.

Fresh data on personal spending and income on Thursday suggested the U.S. economy has continued to grow at a steady, albeit slow, pace. The reports, alongside generally solid corporate earnings, have helped major indexes continue rising despite swings as tensions flared between the U.S. and North Korea, some analysts said.

"The economic story has been solid and there hasn't been any significant escalation since tensions rose," said Jason Draho, head of tactical asset allocation Americas for UBS Wealth Management. "Investors are relatively calm."

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 55.67 points, or 0.2%, to 21948.10 on Thursday, while the S&P 500 added 14.06 points, or 0.6%, to 2471.65. Both indexes posted their fifth consecutive month of gains -- their longest such streak since July 2016.

The Nasdaq Composite added 60.35 points, or 0.9%, to 6428.66, notching its 45th record close of the year.

Continue Reading Below

"If the economy is growing and global growth is stable, then that's what we're going to lean on until something tell us something drastically different," said Doron Barness, global head of trading at Oppenheimer & Co.

Americans' personal spending rose in July at the fastest pace since April, while personal incomes posted their biggest one-month jump since February, according to the Commerce Department.

Meanwhile, an official gauge of China's factory activity rose in August, even though new export orders declined.

The data followed upbeat reports Wednesday showing U.S. gross domestic product growth was stronger than initially thought in the second quarter, while hiring among U.S. private employers increased by more than expected.

Investors are now awaiting Friday's monthly jobs report, which, if positive, should keep U.S. stocks climbing, some investors say, even as many worry about the length of the stock market rally.

"The easy money was made some time ago," said Rob McIver, a portfolio manager of the $6 billion Jensen Quality Growth Fund. "The market does seem to be changing from risk-on to slightly more conservative."

Shares of health-care companies in the S&P 500 gained 1.7% on Thursday in their biggest one-day jump since November. Biotechnology giant Biogen rose $12.81, or 4.2%, to $316.56, while Gilead Sciences added 2.48, or 3.1%, to 83.71.

Meanwhile, energy stocks in the S&P 500 rose 0.5%, nearly erasing their declines for the week. Commodity prices rebounded, too, with U.S. crude for October delivery jumping 2.8% to $47.23 a barrel.

Cabot Oil & Gas added 76 cents, or 3.1%, to $25.55, while Marathon Oil rose 22 cents, or 2.0%, to $11.12, putting them among the biggest gainers in the energy sector for the day.

Energy shares had been under pressure for much of the month, extending losses for the year after Hurricane Harvey crippled Gulf Cost refineries, ports and pipelines and sent crude prices lower.

"It's just so beaten down that you're now getting the reversion trade," said Mr. Barness. "A lot of people have been short energy," he added," so some are also moving to cover their shorts."

Even after the day's gains, the energy sector posted its biggest monthly loss since December 2015.

Stock indexes elsewhere mostly rose. The Stoxx Europe 600 rose 0.8%, while Japan's Nikkei Stock Average closed up 0.7%.

Write to Michael Wursthorn at Michael.Wursthorn@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

August 31, 2017 17:58 ET (21:58 GMT)