U.S. stocks rose on Thursday, with the S&P 500 and Dow industrials toppling records, as investors considered mixed economic reports on jobs and the housing market and continued to relish the Federal Reserve's renewed vow to keep benchmark rates low.
"We've got low inflation, improving earnings and a central bank that appears to be a constructive force; what's not to like in this picture," said Jim Russell, senior equity strategist for US Bank Wealth Management.
"It all adds up to an environmental overlay that is extremely risk-asset friendly, Russell added.
Sears Holdings lost ground as Credit Suisse analyst Gary Balter called on the department store to liquidate; Peabody Energy dropped after Goldman Sachs downgraded the coal miner to sell from neutral; Rite Aid declined after the drugstore chain reduced its full-year profit outlook; Pier 1 Imports fell after the retailer cut its 2014 earnings forecast; ConAgra gained after the food producer reported better-than-expected first-quarter earnings, and Steel Dynamics rose after projecting results that topped expectations. Alibaba Group Holding plans to select a price for its initial public offering overnight.
Economic reports Thursday had the number of Americans filing for jobless benefits dropping to a two-month low and separately, housing starts declined in August. The Philadelphia Federal Reserve's index of factory activity in the mid-Atlantic region decelerated in September, but its employment component rose to its highest level since the middle of 2011.
The Fed on Wednesday reiterated its "considerable time" wording in reference to how long it would hold off on hiking interest rates. The central bank also signaled that it might increase borrowing costs more rapidly than previously thought, helping lift the dollar, with the U.S. currency rising to a six-year high against the Japanese yen.