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The markets zipped higher Thursday, putting an end to a three-day losing streak, as traders cheered data suggesting the U.S. economy is improving while inflation remains in check.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 181 points, or 1.2%, to 15176, the S&P 500 gained 23.8 points, or 1.5%, to 1636 and the Nasdaq Composite climbed 44.9 points, or 1.3%, to 3445.
The markets have had a tough three days, with the S&P 500 shedding close to 2% on the back of ongoing concerns about the pace of bond buying by global central banks. That negative sentiment pervaded Asian markets on the day. The Japanese Nikkei 225 plunged 6.4% overnight, eating into big gains earlier in the year. However, the mood brightened markedly in U.S. afternoon action.
Several key reports gave traders a fresh look at the American economy.
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The Commerce Department reported retail sales ticked up 0.6% in May from April, beating expectations of a 0.4% rise. Core sales, which excludes automobiles, gasoline and building materials increased 0.3% from 0.2% in April. The consumer sector is the largest portion of the economy, and the data often have an outsize market impact.
The Labor Department said new claims for unemployment benefits fell by 12,000 to 334,000 last week. Claims were expected to fall to 345,000 from 346,000 the week prior. Jobs data have come into focus as traders try to determine when the labor market will be recovering swiftly enough for the Federal Reserve to begin tapering its bond buys.
Another report from Commerce showed U.S. import prices fell 0.6% in May from April, while export prices dipped 0.5%, compared to expectations that both would hold steady for the month. Import prices were down 1.9% from the same month last year, while export prices were off 0.9%. There have been worries that the Fed's aggressive monetary policy could put upward pressure on prices, however, that broadly has not yet come to fruition.
Commodities markets were lightly changed. The benchmark U.S. crude oil contract fell 51 cents, or 0.52%, to $95.38 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline rose 0.03% to $2.811 a gallon. In metals, gold dipped $6.90, or 0.5%, to $1,385 a troy ounce.
The Euro Stoxx 50 fell 0.9% to 2642, the English FTSE 100 dropped 0.85% to 6246 and the German DAX sold off by 1.4% to 8028.
In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 plunged 6.4% to 12445 and the Chinese Hang Seng plummeted 2.2% to 20887.