December 15, 2019

Market Climbs Higher as Jobless Claims Slip

The stock market rose for a fourth straight day on Thursday, sending the Dow Jones industrial average and the Standard Poor’s 500-stock index to new milestones as positive data on the labor market and an encouraging retail outlook eased recent concerns about economic growth.

Despite the S. P. 500’s gain of 11.7 percent this year, investors have been concerned about the pace of the economic recovery, especially after the weak March employment report last week.

New claims for unemployment benefits fell more than expected in the latest week, dropping to the lower end of the range for the year. In another sign that the economy might be in better shape than some recent data had indicated, retail executives and analysts forecast improved same-store sales in April after mixed results in March.

Several of the S. P. 500’s top percentage gainers were retailers, with Ross Stores gaining 5.9 percent to $63.80; L Brands, formerly known as Limited Brands, gaining 4.3 percent to $50.25, and J. C. Penney gaining 5.5 percent at $14.86.

“This data is especially welcome on the heels of last week’s jobs report, and it just adds to the tremendous demand that there continues to be for equities,” said Leo Grohowski, chief investment officer at BNY Mellon Wealth Management. “The money that has been waiting for a pullback is running out of patience.”

Still, the Nasdaq composite index’s gains were limited as technology stocks sold off after an industry report that showed shipments of personal computers fell significantly in the first quarter.

Hewlett-Packard slid 6.5 percent to $20.88 as the S. P. 500’s top percentage loser, followed by Microsoft, down 4.5 percent at $28.93. Microsoft was also affected after Goldman Sachs downgraded the stock to sell from neutral, citing “worsening PC trends and a lack of traction in tablets and smartphones.”

H.P. and Microsoft are Dow components, but the index drew plenty of strength from other members. Three of the blue-chip average’s five biggest gainers — Pfizer, Boeing and Home Depot — all hit 52-week highs.

The Dow industrials gained 62.90 points, or 0.42 percent, to close at 14,865.14. The S. P. 500 rose 5.64 points, or 0.36 percent, to 1,593.37. The Nasdaq edged up 2.90 points, or 0.09 percent, to 3,300.16.

“It’s amazing to me that we’re already a few points away from our midyear target of 1,600, which had seemed somewhat aggressive,” Mr. Grohowski said, referring to the S. P. 500. “But there’s still skepticism about the market and tons of cash on the sidelines, which encourages me that the market can continue to pull higher.”

The Dow received its biggest boost from the drug maker Pfizer, up 2.4 percent at $30.64 after JPMorgan Chase raised its target price on the company’s stock to $33 from $32.

Acadia Pharmaceuticals surged 64.4 percent to $13.10 after the drug maker said data from an initial late-stage trial would be sufficient to file for approval for its experimental antipsychotic drug for Parkinson’s disease patients.

In the bond market, interest rates eased. The price of the Treasury’s 10-year note rose 4/32, to 101 28/32, while its yield slipped to 1.79 percent, from 1.81 percent late Wednesday.

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