The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed above the 25,000 level for the first time on Thursday and other major indexes hit closing record highs again, propelled by strong global economic data that extended the New Year’s rally for the stock market.
The 30-member blue-chip index crossed five 1,000-point marks in 2017 on solid corporate earnings and hopes for a pro-growth agenda by the current administration.
It took less than a year for the Dow to add a 5,000-point milestone, which is the fastest since the index was created in May 1896.
Wall Street has started 2018 on a strong note. The benchmark S&P index closed above 2,700 for the first time on Wednesday and the Nasdaq settled above 7,000 a day earlier. Both indexes also registered closing record highs on Thursday.
Strong manufacturing and services sector data from the world’s largest economies provided a bullish tone on Thursday, while other data indicated private employers stepped up hiring in December. Friday will bring the key non-farm payrolls report.
The CBOE Volatility Index, better known as the VIX and a popular options-based gauge of expected near-term price volatility, closed at 9.22. The index has been flirting with record lows in recent months.
Financials led gains on the S&P 500 on Thursday, with Wells Fargo up 1.3 percent, JPMorgan Chase up 1.4 percent and Goldman Sachs up 1.4 percent.
Credit Suisse raised its price targets on six banks, while Goldman Sachs also had a bullish note on bank stocks.
S&P 500 companies are expected to soon begin reporting quarterly earnings, with JPMorgan results due next week.
On the downside L Brands, which owns Victoria Secret, fell 12.3 percent after a disappointing quarterly earnings forecast.
Macy’s closed down 3.3 percent after it reported only modest growth in holiday sales and saying it would close stores and slash thousands of jobs this year. Other department store operators ended the trading day lower.
Intel fell 1.8 percent, adding to Wednesday’s losses, as investors worried about the potential financial liability from recently disclosed security flaws in its microprocessors. Advanced Micro Devices rose 4.9 percent.
Volume held up despite a powerful blizzard that caused power outages and travel problems in the Northeast, and walloped New York City with snow. Approximately 7.0 billion shares changed hands on the major domestic equity exchanges, a number that was above the 6.3 billion share daily average over the past 20 trading days, according to Thomson Reuters data.
Jobless Claims Rise
The Labor Department reported Thursday morning that initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 3,000 to a seasonally adjusted 250,000 for the week ended Dec. 30. The Department also said that claims data for some states, including California, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Virginia, had been estimated.
The labor market is near full employment, with the jobless rate at a 17-year low of 4.1 percent.
Last week also marked the 148th straight week that claims remained below 300,000, which is associated with a strong labor market. That is the longest such stretch since 1970, when the labor market was much smaller.
The four-week moving average of initial claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, increased by 3,500 to 241,750 last week.
Thursday’s claims report also showed the number of people receiving benefits after an initial week of aid dropped by 37,000 to 1.91 million in the week ended Dec. 23. The four-week moving average of the so-called continuing claims rose by 750 to 1.92 million.
Private employers stepped up hiring in December and planned layoffs by American-based companies fell sharply, pointing to sustained labor market strength that likely keeps the Federal Reserve on course to increase interest rates in March.
Other data on Thursday indicated a third straight weekly rise in first-time applications for unemployment benefits, though that probably reflected volatility around the end-of-year holidays.
The ADP Research Institute said private payrolls increased by 250,000 jobs in December, the largest gain since March, and well above economists’ expectations for a rise of 190,000. The ADP National Employment Report is jointly developed with Moody’s Analytics.
The gains in employment were broad-based last month. Manufacturing payrolls rose by 9,000 and employment in the construction sector increased by 16,000. The service-providing industries added another 222,000 jobs last month.
The ADP report was released ahead of the Labor Department’s more comprehensive employment report on Friday. According to a Reuters survey of economists, nonfarm payrolls probably rose by 190,000 jobs in December after a gain of 228,000 in November.
The tightening labor market encouraged the Fed to raise interest rates three times last year despite inflation persistently undershooting the Fed’s 2 percent target.
Minutes of the Fed’s Dec. 12-13 policy meeting published on Wednesday indicated officials were upbeat about the economy and labor market prospects. They viewed economic activity as “rising at a solid rate,” and the labor market as continuing to strengthen.
The Fed has forecast three rate hikes for 2018. However, it is likely the Fed will be forced to raise interest rates a minimum of four times this year, citing the impact of the $1.5 trillion in tax cuts passed by the Republican-led Congress and signed into law by President Donald Trump last month.
In a separate report on Thursday, global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas indicated that employers had announced 32,423 job cuts in December, a 7.4 percent decrease from November. That brought the total number of layoffs in 2017 to 418,770, the fewest since 1990. Employers announced 526,915 job cuts in 2016.