Financials Lead Wall Street Higher; S&P Tops 1400

FOX Business: The Power to Prosper

The markets climbed to the highs of the session, with the broad S&P 500 surpassing the 1400 mark for the first time since 2008, as financial shares rallied.

Today's Markets

As of 3:08 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 43.8 points, or 0.33%, to 13238, the S&P 500 gained 7.9 points, or 0.57%, to 1402 and the Nasdaq Composite climbed 16.6 points, or 0.55%, to 3057.

Financial stocks performed strongly on Thursday. The best performing stocks on the Dow were Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) and JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM). Investment banks posted big gains too, with shares of Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) and Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS) soaring.

Energy futures took a hit from a report by Reuters that the U.S. and Great Britain are mulling a bilateral pact in which each country would potentially tap its oil reserves. However, prices regained their footing somewhat after an Obama administration official denied that report.

The benchmark crude oil contract traded in New York fell 30 cents, or 0.3%, to $105.11 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline slumped 1.8% to $3.29 a gallon.

A gallon of regular at the pump costs $3.82 on average nationwide, up from $3.76 last month and $3.55 last year, according to the AAA Fuel Gauge report.

The Dow is on a six session winning streak, having rallied 3.4% to the highest level since 2007 in so many days. The broader S&P 500 is also sitting right under its best level since 2008, while the Nasdaq is at its best since 2000.

The outlook on the U.S. economy has grown increasingly bright as recent data on several sectors has impressed. Market participants will get a slew of reports on the day.

The number of individuals filing for first-time unemployment benefits fell by 14,000 to 351,000 last week, lower than the 356,000 economists forecast. Continuing claims, meanwhile, fell to 3.34 million, the lowest reading since August 2008.

The recovery in the jobs market has gained momentum recently as weekly claims have remained under the 400,000 level, but many economists say the rate of improvement is too small to make more than a gradual reduction in the 8.3% unemployment rate.

A separate report from Labor showed U.S. producer prices rose 0.4% in February, slightly less than the 0.5% expected. Excluding the food and energy components, prices were up 0.2%, in line with estimates. Energy prices were up 1.3% overall, with gasoline prices soaring 4.3% and heating oil leaping 5.3%.

Economists from the Federal Reserve and elsewhere have said that a short-term spike in energy prices may not be sufficient to increase inflation expectations for the future, meaning they may not yet cause a longer-term inflation threat. The more closely-watched report on consumer prices is on tap for Friday.

The Philadelphia Fed said manufacturing in the mid-Atlantic region continued growing at a slightly quicker pace in March than in February, and also more quickly than analysts had anticipated. Manufacturing in the New York region expanded at the swiftest pace since June 2010, according to the New York Fed's  Empire State survey.

Elsewhere, gold prices had tumbled $68.40, or 4.00%, over the past three sessions before rebounding $16.60, or 1.8%, to $1,660 a troy ounce.

U.S. 10-year Treasury yields have jumped 0.246-percentage points over the past two sessions as traders have shed the safe-haven asset and moved into riskier markets. The yield reversed course and fell 0.008-percentage points on Thursday to 2.227%.

Corporate News

Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO) unveiled plans to scoop up NDS for $5 billion. The London-based maker of software for television networks is partly owned by News Corp. (NASDAQ:NWSA), the parent company of FOX Business Network.

Foreign Markets

European blue chips rose 0.55%, the English FTSE 100 dipped 0.2% to 5934 and the German DAX climbed 0.78% to 7134.

In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 jumped 0.72% to 10123 and the Chinese Hang Seng rose 0.21% to 21354.