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Investors cheered in the U.S. Thursday after encouraging data showed an unexpected decline in jobless claims, putting the Dow on track for its tenth straight gain.
By the close the Dow Jones had rallied another 84 points to 14,539, while the NASDAQ gained 14 points to 3259.
The Labor Department said this morning that weekly jobless claims dropped to 332,000 for the week that ended March 9, from 340,000 the prior week, another indicator that layoffs are beginning to diminish and that hiring may be picking up. That beat expectations, as economists expected new claims to rise to 350,000.
The producer price index also came in this morning, jumping 0.7% in February, compared to a 0.2% rise the prior month, and to expectations for a 0.6% rise, with the spike attributed mainly to a hike in gas prices. Less the volatile food and energy categories, core prices were steady with the prior month, rising 0.2% - meeting expectations.
Meanwhile, data on the current account deficit showed that in the fourth quarter, the U.S. current account deficit narrowed unexpectedly to $110.4 billion, or 2.8% of GDP.
The Federal Reserve is scheduled to release the second part of its stress test results on Thursday after market close.
In corporate news, retailer The Men’s Wearhouse (NYSE:MW) surged 19% Thursday, a day after it reported its fourth quarter loss narrowed as revenue rose more than 8%. The company also boosted its share buyback program to $200 million and appointed a CFO, as well as said it had retained an investment bank to help it explore strategic options for its K&G store chain.
Elsewhere, Ameren Corp. (NYSE:AEE) shares edged up after Dynergy Inc. announced plans to acquire the energy company’s subsidiary.
Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) shares rose over 1% after the consumer tech company was upgraded to buy from neutral by BTIG, as the company's rival Samsung Electronics Co. (KRX:KR:005930) unveils its latest Galaxy S smartphone on Thursday. The price target on its stock was also cut Tuesday to $420 by Jefferies.
E*Trade Financial Corp. (NASDAQ:ETFC) shares shed over 8% Thursday as the online brokerage said Wednesday that its largest shareholder, Citadel LLC, plans to sell its entire 9.6% stake.
In the communications sector, CBS Corp. (NYSE:CBS) gained 2.2% after the most-watched U.S. television network unveiled plans to offer a full-episode streaming app of its steaming for iPhone and iPad users. CBS also had its price target raised to $54 from $45 at UBS. The stock has gained 24 percent so far this year.
Linkedin Corp. (NYSE:LNKD) advanced slightly as Goldman Sachs Group Inc. raised its price target to $220 from $157.
Moving to consumer stocks, EBay (NASDAQ:EBAY), operator of the world’s largest online marketplace, rallied 1.5% as Evercore raised its rating on the company to “overweight” from “equalweight”.
Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN), the world’s biggest online retailer, slipped more than 4% as JPMorgan Chase & Co. lowered its recommendation on the stock to “neutral” from “overweight.” JPMorgan said some of the Seattle, Washington-based company’s key business lines indicate more material deceleration in this year’s gross profit.
Herbalife (NYSE:HLF) lost 1.7% after Ackman’s Pershing Square issued a new report comparing Herbalife to Fortune Hi-Tech Marketing, which is subject to a federal lawsuit filed by the Federal Trade Commission. “Using the same analytical framework and legal standards that the FTC used to conclude that Fortune Hi-Tech Marketing is a pyramid scheme, Pershing Square believes that Herbalife clearly violates those same standards,” Pershing said in a statement.
Gold futures finished up slightly Thursday, as a weaker dollar helped the yellow metal, which lost its sheen as a drop in U.S. jobless claims drew investors to riskier equities.
April gold added $2.30, or 0.1%, to settle at $1,590.70 an ounce on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange.
The decline in the U.S. dollar also supported oil futures, as did the labor data, which pointed to higher demand prospects.
Crude oil for delivery in April rose 51 cents, or 0.6%, at $93.03 a barrel.
Taking their cue from North America, European markets finished broadly higher today with shares in Germany leading the region. The DAX was up 1.10% while France's CAC 40 rose 0.80% and Britain's FTSE 100 advanced 0.74%.
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