FOX Business: Capitalism Lives Here
The blue-chip average notched a record closing high for the third day in a row Thursday as traders digested a smattering of data and braced for the monthly jobs report.
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According to preliminary calculations, the Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 33.25 points, or 0.23%, to 14329.64, the S&P 500 rose 2.85 points, or 0.18%, to 1544.31 and the Nasdaq Composite gained 9.73 points, or 0.30%, 3232.09.
The benchmark average once again landed at levels unseen since October 2007 as Wall Street continues its recovery from the financial crisis. The broader markets have made moves higher as well, although, the broad S&P 500 struggled to pick up momentum on Wednesday. It is trading at five-year highs, but still has roughly 1.5% to go before hitting its record.
The gains were fairly broad-based on the day, with economically-sensitive shares performing best. Financial stocks posted the biggest gains, followed by energy and materials. Meanwhile, traditionally defensive sectors like utilities, consumer staples and health-care struggled.
Echoing that trend, Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) was the best-performing Dow component, followed by Boeing (NYSE:BA), J.P. Morgan Chase (NYSE:JPM) and Alcoa (NYSE:AA).
A Full Economic Docket
The docket of economic events was full on Thursday, with several data releases and central bank decisions. The Bank of England kicked off the day by holding its benchmark interest rate and the size of its quantitative easing program steady, as expected. The European Central Bank also held its main rate steady.
The ECB has been one of the leading public institutions aiming to dull the eurozone's debt crisis by holding interest rates low and utilizing several special lending programs to help banks across the 17-member currency bloc.
On the U.S. front, the U.S. trade deficit widened to $44.5 billion in January from $38.1 billion in December. Economists expected the gap to increase to $42.6 billion. The trade gap figures directly into calculations of first-quarter gross domestic product -- the larger the deficit, the more it drags down growth. Indeed, Barclays chopped down its forecast for first-quarter economic growth 0.2-percentage point to 1.6% on the data.
Meanwhile, global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas said employers cut 55,356 jobs in February, up 37% from 40,430 in January. Planned job cuts were up 7% from the same month in 2012. The Labor Department reports weekly jobless claims fell 7,000 to 340,000, declining for a second straight week. Economists expected claims to rise to 355,000. Continuing claims rose to 3.094 million from 3.091 million the week prior.
The all-important monthly employment report for the month of February is slated to be released on Friday.
In corporate news, Time Warner (NYSE:TWX) said it would spin off Time, Inc., one of the biggest American publishing companies, into its own publicly-traded company. Royal Bank of Scotland (NYSE:RBS) said its banking services were "disrupted" overnight, but fixed by Thursday morning New York time.
Oil prices rallied on the day. The benchmark U.S. contract climbed $1.13, 1.3%, to $91.56 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline fell 0.04% to $3.123 a gallon. Gold climbed 20 cents, or 0.01%, to $1,575 a troy an ounce.
The Euro Stoxx 50 rose 0.41% to 2691, the English FTSE 100 rose 0.18% to 6439 and the German DAX inched up 0.26% to 7940.
In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 edged up 0.3% to 11968 and the Chinese Hang Seng slipped 0.03% to 11968.