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Stocks Move Mostly Higher On Upbeat Economic Data - U.S. Commentary

3/15/2012 4:23 PM ET

Stocks moved mostly higher over the course of the trading day on Thursday, extending the upward move seen in recent sessions. The markets benefited from another batch of positive U.S. economic data, including more upbeat jobs data.

The major averages closed firmly in positive territory, near their best levels of the day. The Dow rose 58.66 point or 0.4 percent to 13,252.76, the Nasdaq climbed 15.64 points or 0.5 percent to 3,056.37 and the S&P 500 advanced 8.32 points or 0.6 percent to 1,402.60.

With the gains on the day, the major averages once again reached new multi-year closing highs. The S&P 500 closed above 1,400 for the first time since June of 2008, while the Dow reached a new four-year closing high and the Nasdaq set a new eleven-year closing high.

Optimism about the outlook for the U.S. economy contributed to the strength on Wall Street, with a report from the Labor Department showing a bigger than expected drop in initial jobless claims in the week ended March 10th.

The report showed that jobless claims dropped to 351,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 365,000. Economists had expected jobless claims to drop to 355,000 from the 362,000 originally reported for the previous week.

With the bigger than expected decrease, jobless claims matched the four-year low that was set in the week ended February 11th.

A separate report from the New York Federal Reserve showed a continued expansion in regional manufacturing activity, with the index of activity in the sector showing an unexpected increase.

Additionally, the Philadelphia Federal Reserve released a report that also showed a continued increase in regional manufacturing activity

On the inflation front, the Labor Department said its producer price index rose by 0.4 percent in February following a 0.1 percent increase in January. Economists had expected the index to increase by 0.5 percent.

Excluding food and energy prices, the core producer price index edged up by 0.2 percent in February compared to a 0.4 percent increase in the previous month. The increase in core prices came in line with economist estimates.

In corporate news, shares of Radvision (RVSN) rose by 4.5 percent after the Israeli video conferencing company agreed to be acquired by Avaya for $11.85 per share in cash. The deal values Radvision at $230 million.

Meanwhile, Guess (GES) bucked the uptrend after the clothing maker reported weaker than expected fourth quarter revenues and forecast first quarter results well below analyst estimates. Shares of Guess tumbled by 10.2 percent.

Sector News

Transportation stocks moved sharply higher over the course of the trading day, driving the Dow Jones Transportation Average up by 3.3 percent. With the gain, the average more than offset the loss it posted in the previous session, reaching a one-month closing high.

Overseas Shipholding Group (OSG) and CSX Corp. (CSX) turned in two of the transportation sector's best performances, advancing by 11.5 percent and 8.5 percent, respectively.

Significant strength was also visible among banking stocks, as reflected by the 2.7 percent gain posted by the KBW Bank Index. The gain extended a recent upward move by the index, which reached its best closing level in nine months.

Brokerage, housing, and semiconductor stocks also showed strong moves to the upside on the day, moving higher along with most of the major sectors.

Other Markets

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region turned in a lackluster performance on Thursday, ending the day mixed. Japan's Nikkei 225 Index advanced by 0.7 percent, while China's Shanghai Composite Index fell by 0.7 percent.

The major European markets also turned in a mixed performance on the day. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index edged down by 0.1 percent, the French CAC 40 Index rose by 0.4 percent and the German DAX Index ended the day up by 0.9 percent.

In the bond market, treasuries showed a lack of direction for much of the session, ending the day nearly flat. The yield on the benchmark ten-year note, which moves opposite of its price, edged up by less than a basis point to 2.281 percent.

Looking Ahead

Another batch of key economic data is due to be released on Friday, with traders likely to keep an eye on reports on consumer prices, industrial production, and consumer sentiment.

by RTT Staff Writer

For comments and feedback: editorial@rttnews.com

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