Stocks continued to gain into the final hour of trading Thursday after a pair of encouraging employment reports and stronger-than-expected monthly chain-store sales lifted investor optimism ahead of Friday's key employment data.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped, led by Cisco , JPMorgan and Intel , after finishing higher in the previous session. Today's gain over 100 points on the Dow marks the index's fifth triple-digit gain in the past eight trading sessions.
Meanwhile, Pfizer fell after the drugmaker said it may sell or spinoff its animal health and nutrition units to focus on the pharmaceutical business. And IBM also lagged after Wells Fargo cut its rating on the tech giant to "marketperform" from "outperform."
The S&P 500 and the tech-heavy Nasdaq bounced more than 1 percent. The Nasdaq surpassed its April closing high of 2,873.54. If the index remains above that, it will close at its highest level since Dec. 2000.
The CBOE Volatility Index, widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, fell below 16.
All 10 key S&P sectors were higher, led by financials and materials.
Following a pair of robust jobs news in the morning, investors are now focusing on Friday's key government jobs report. Employers are expected to have added 90,000 jobs, according to a Reuters poll.
"One thing is an absolute: Tomorrow's number will influence hiring and consumer sentiment for the rest of the summer," said Todd Schoenberger, managing director of LandColt Trading. "Stocks have been on a tear, so traders may be more inclined to unload stocks following the number, even if it surprises on the upside."
Meanwhile, said Michael Sheldon, chief market strategist at RDM Financial Group said a better-than-expected jobs report could boost the S&P 500 from its recent trading range of 1,250 to 1,370.
"July has been a positive month [for stocks]...so if the employment data comes through positively as indicated by the ADP report today, we could see a push above the top end of the range in the next few weeks," said Sheldon.