US STOCKS-Wall St gains on data; HP, Apple lift Nasdaq

Angela Moon
Wednesday, 27 Nov 2013 | 12:37 PM ET

* Nasdaq hits all-time intraday high above 4,039

* Tech sector advances with rally in HP, Apple

* U.S. jobless claims fall, signaling better labor market

* Consumer sentiment, regional manufacturing top forecasts

* Dow up 0.1 pct; S&P 500 up 0.2 pct; Nasdaq up 0.5 pct

NEW YORK, Nov 27 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks rose on Wednesday following a batch of optimistic economic reports, while Hewlett-Packard shares rallied a day after the company's quarterly results.

But overall trading volume was light, with many traders out for the Thanksgiving holiday. The U.S. stock markets will be closed on Thursday. Regular trading will finish early at 1 p.m. (1800 GMT) on Friday.

The Nasdaq climbed to an all-time intraday high at 4,039.861 as tech shares got a lift from Apple Inc and Hewlett-Packard Co. Apple shares rose 2 percent to $544.06, near the highest since January. Hewlett-Packard's stock shot up 7.7 percent to $27.01, the highest level since August after the company reported stronger-than-expected results late Tuesday.

"The Nasdaq broke above the key 4,000 level yesterday, so this is a good sign for markets going forward," said Bryan Sapp, senior trading analyst at Schaeffer's Investment Research, in Cincinnati.

"A break back below this area would be a warning sign to me, but it appears that markets will continue their slow grind higher during this shortened holiday week."

The Dow Jones industrial average was up 20.10 points, or 0.13 percent, at 16,092.90. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was up 3.18 points, or 0.18 percent, at 1,805.93. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 18.893 points, or 0.47 percent, at 4,036.642.

Wall Street has soared this year, largely on expectations of continued stimulus from the Federal Reserve. Both the Dow and the S&P 500 have risen more than 20 percent in 2013, hitting a series of all-time highs, while the Nasdaq closed above 4,000 for the first time since 2000 on Tuesday.

Among the data that increased optimism about the pace of global growth, weekly jobless claims for unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell in the latest week, a sign of steady improvement in the labor market. Analysts were expecting a rise in claims.

The November Chicago Purchasing Managers Index and the final November reading for the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment index also exceeded expectations, indicating that conditions continue to improve.

"The data was terrific and is in line with an economy where consumers should do well," said Wayne Kaufman, chief market analyst at Rockwell Securities in New York. "Recently consumer sentiment hasn't lined up with how positive the market has been, so hopefully this means everyone is becoming more positive."

The holiday shopping season unofficially begins on Friday, and already there has been unprecedented price-cutting from the discount chain Wal-Mart Stores Inc, earlier-than-usual deals from online company Amazon.com Inc and price-match promises from Best Buy Co Inc and Target Corp. The S&P retail index rose 0.4 percent.

But short sellers seemed to be targeting the retail sector, according to SunGard's Astec Analytics.

"Ahead of Black Friday, short sellers in the U.S. seem to be holding some skepticism in the retail sector, hinting at concerns over the gift-buying season. The number of U.S. retail equity shares being borrowed, a proxy for short selling, is seeing a late surge," said Karl Loomes, market analyst at SunGard's Astec Analytics, in a client note.

But he noted that Macy's Inc and Sears Holding were the two exceptions, with the number of shares borrowed falling 13 percent and 6 percent, respectively, for the last seven days.

On the downside, the S&P index of energy shares fell 0.7 percent as U.S. crude oil futures dropped 1.6 percent to $92.67 because of a higher-than-expected increase in inventories. Newfield Exploration shares dropped 5 percent to $28 while Noble Energy slid 4.5 percent to $69.89.

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