Dow returns to 25,000 as stocks mount rally

U.S. stocks bounced higher Thursday after briefly slipping into negative territory, pushing the Dow back above the 25,000 milestone.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average advanced 306.88 points, or 1.23%, to 25,200.37. The S&P 500 gained 32.57 points, or 1.21%, to 2,731.20. The Nasdaq Composite rose 112.81 points, or 1.58%, to 7,256.43.

The stock market has closed higher for five consecutive days following a broad sell-off last week that fueled the Dow’s worst single-day point losses in history. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq clinched their longest winning streaks in five weeks with Thursday’s gains. Coming into the session, the S&P 500 had climbed 4.6% over the previous four days, the index’s best four-day percentage increase since July 2016. The Dow and S&P 500 have also turned positive for the year.

"I imagine investors will still be somewhat cautious despite the encouraging rebound we’re seeing which will leave markets a little vulnerable to further drops," said Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at Oanda. "The fundamental backdrop remains strong but rising yields on the back of higher interest rate expectations does appear to be spooking investors and with the 10-year Treasury now nearing 3% for the first time in four years, any sharp rises may continue to weigh on equity markets."

Investors are closely watching signs of rising inflation, given that policymakers at the Federal Reserve could accelerate their interest rate hikes if inflation grows faster than expected. In a report released Wednesday, the Labor Department said the Consumer Price Index rose 0.5% in January, while economists expected a smaller increase. The producer price index also climbed, with core PPI growing 2.5% over the past 12 months in its strongest ascent since August 2014.

The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note hit a new four-year high of 2.94%. Gold edged 0.1% lower to $1,356.60 an ounce in recent trading.

“Markets have settled back into their routine of steady gains it seems, as the earthquake moment prompted by the US CPI reading passes,” said Chris Beauchamp, chief market analyst at IG. "The decision appears to be to resume selling the dollar, furiously buying up non-U.S. assets wherever they can be found, but also going back into U.S. equities with gusto."

The CBOE Volatility Index, Wall Street’s “fear gauge,” pared its gains as volatility subsided. The VIX was down 0.05% in recent trading, slipping to 19.25 compared to its high of around 50 last week.

West Texas Intermediate crude settled 74 cents higher, or 1.22%, at $61.34 a barrel.