Dow Jones Industrial Average, S&P 500 Trade at Record Highs

(AP) -
Elanco Animal Health Inc. President and CEO Jeff Simmons rings the ceremonial bell as the stock begins trading on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Thursday. (Reuters/Brendan McDermid)

A wave of buying sent U.S. stocks solidly higher on Wall Street Thursday, pushing the Dow Jones Industrial Average above the all-time high it closed at in January.

The S&P 500, the benchmark for many index funds, was also above the peak it reached last month.

A weaker dollar and a mix of mostly encouraging economic reports helped put investors into a buying mood. Technology stocks, banks and health-care companies accounted for much of the rally.

Utilities and other safe-play stocks lagged as investors shoveled money into riskier assets. Homebuilders slumped following new data showing flat home sales in August and surging mortgage rates.

KEEPING SCORE: The S&P 500 index rose 20 points, or 0.7 percent, to 2,928 as of noon Eastern Time. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 234 points, or 0.9 percent, to 26,640. The Nasdaq composite climbed 71 points, or 0.9 percent, to 8,021. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies picked up 8 points, or 0.5 percent, to 1,710.

ENCOURAGING DATA: Investors welcomed a batch of positive data on the economy. The Labor Department’s weekly tally of applications for unemployment aid was lower than expected, with claims slipping last week to 201,000. That’s the lowest level since November 1969.

An economic index from the Federal Reserve’s bank in Philadelphia also topped forecasts, and the Conference Board’s index of leading economic indicators, designed to anticipate economic conditions three to six months out, rose 0.4 percent last month. While that came in slightly below forecasts, it still suggests the economy is on sure footing, said Tracie McMillion, global head of asset allocation for Wells Fargo Investment Institute.

THE QUOTE: “With a (reading) that high it’s very unlikely that there’s a recession on the horizon,” McMillion said. “The U.S. market is responding to this foundation of economic strength. Pair that with a dollar that has started to depreciate a little bit and that’s good news for U.S. companies that trade abroad.”

CURRENCIES: The dollar rose to 112.52 yen from 112.27 yen on Wednesday. The euro strengthened to $1.1749 from $1.1674.

TECH ON A TEAR: Some of the biggest gains went to technology companies. Oracle gained 2.9 percent to $50.86.

HEALTHY TURN: Health-care companies also posted solid gains. Edwards Lifesciences rose 2.5 percent to $152.43.

OVERHAUL GAINS: Under Armour jumped 6.3 percent to $19.94 after the athletic apparel company said it will cut 400 jobs, or 3 percent of its staff, and will spend more money on a restructuring plan.

SITTING PRETTY: Herman Miller gained 5.6 percent to $39.35 after the furniture company reported a larger profit than analysts expected.

HOUSING RED FLAGS: Homebuilders slumped after the National Association of Realtors said sales of existing U.S. homes were flat in August after declining the previous four months. Separately, mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said the average rate on 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages jumped to 4.65 percent this week, the highest level since May. William Lyon Homes tumbled 7.5 percent to $17.25.

DOES NOT COMPUTE: Red Hat slid 6.1 percent to $134.38 after the open-source software company’s sales disappointed investors.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude slipped 0.2 percent to $70.95 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, was down 0.7 percent to $78.82.

BOND YIELDS: Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 3.07 percent from 3.08 percent late Wednesday.

MARKETS OVERSEAS: Major indexes in Europe were headed higher. Germany’s DAX gained 0.8 percent, while France’s CAC 40 rose 1.1 percent. Britain’s FTSE 100 added 0.4 percent. Earlier in Asia, Japan’s Nikkei 225 finished flat. The Kospi in South Korea added 0.7 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index rose 0.3 percent. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 dropped 0.3 percent. Shares fell in Taiwan but rose in Indonesia, Thailand and Singapore.