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Stock rally propels Dow industrials to 50th record-high close of the year

U.S. stocks rose on Thursday, with Wall Street continuing its record-setting advance after data had fewer Americans than expected filing applications for jobless benefits last week, casting a positive light on the labor market.

"The fundamentals are perking up right when we need them to, as the Fed steps away," said Jim Russell, senior equity strategist for US Bank Wealth management, referring to the Federal Reserve's announcement that it would start reducing its $85 billion in monthly bond purchases by $10 billion.

Shares of Amazon.com, United Parcel Service and FedEx edged higher after the online retailer offered to refund shipping charges after the package-delivery companies said they did not deliver some packages by Christmas amid overwhelming volume.

"Getting overwhelmed with packages is maybe not so good for UPS and FedEx, but it is good for the economy," said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at BMO Private Bank.

T-Mobile US climbed after sources close to the matter told Reuters that Japan's SoftBank was in discussions to acquire the wireless carrier.

Tesla Motors rallied 3.1 percent after a China Daily report said the maker of electric cars would look to launch additional showrooms in China in 2014.

Symbol
Name
Price
 
Change
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DJIA
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S&P 500
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NASDAQ
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Setting another closing high, the Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed for a sixth consecutive session, adding 122.33 points, or 0.8 percent, to 16,479.88, with Exxon Mobil leading gains that extended to all but one of its 30 components.

The S&P 500 gained 8.7 points, or 0.5 percent, to a record close of 1,842.02, with energy and consumer discretionary leading sector gains and utilities the weakest performer among its 10 major industry groups.

Of the 249 trading sessions completed in 2013, the Dow industrials have closed at an all-time high 50 times, while the S&P 500 has finished at a record high 44 times.

The Nasdaq also rose, touching its highest level since Sept. 1, 2000. It finished at 4,167.17, up 11.76 points, or 0.3 percent.

For every seven stocks falling, roughly eight gained on the New York Stock Exchange, where 420 million shares traded. Composite volume approached 2 billion.

After briefly surpassing 3 percent, the yield on the 10-year Treasury note was up 1 basis point at 2.99 percent.

Fair value for the benchmark yield is probably 3.5 percent, as "it tends to track nominal GDP over time," said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at BMO Private Bank. "The question is, can the stock market overcome that head wind, or the battle between accelerating top-line growth and accelerating interest rates," he added.

The dollar held steady against the currencies of major U.S. trading partners, while dollar-denominated commodities gained, with crude futures adding 33 cents to $99.55 a barrel, while gold futures rose $9.00 to $1,212.30 an ounce.

Ahead of Thursday's open, the Labor Department reported jobless claims fell by 42,000 to 338,000 last week.

U.S. markets were closed for the Christmas holiday on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, the S&P 500 and the Dow industrials finished at record highs in a holiday-shortened session after economic reports on durable goods and new-home sales exceeded estimates.

—By CNBC's Kate Gibson

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