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U.S. Stocks Close Higher After Lackluster Session; Dow, S&P 500 Hit New Highs

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U.S. stocks closed higher on Thursday, after what turned out to be a somewhat lackluster session.

Data showing an acceleration in producer prices and a drop in jobless claims suggested the economy is well and truly on the recovery track.

Among the major averages, the Dow and S&P 500 scaled new record highs. The Dow, which rose to 35,510.77, settled at 35,499.85, gaining 14.88 points or 0.04 percent. The S&P 500 ended up by 13.13 points or 0.3 percent at 4,460.83, slightly off a new high of 4,461.77.

The Nasdaq started off on a weak note, and after staying just above the flat line till more than an hour past noon, moved higher to settle at 14,816.26, gaining 51.13 points or 0.35 percent.

The Labor Department said initial jobless claims edged down to 375,000 in the week ended August 7th, a decrease of 12,000 from the previous week's revised level of 387,000.

Economists had expected jobless claims to dip to 375,000 from the 385,000 originally reported for the previous week.

Meanwhile, the Labor Department released a separate report showing U.S. producer prices increased more than expected in the month of July.

The Labor Department said its producer price index for final demand surged up by 1.0 percent in July, matching the jump seen in the previous month. Economists had expected producer prices to climb by 0.6 percent.

With the bigger than expected monthly increase, the annual rate of growth in producer prices accelerated to 7.8 percent in July from 7.3 percent in June.

The year-over-year spike in producer prices reflected the largest advance since 12-month data were first calculated in November 2010.

Excluding prices for food, energy and trade services, core producer prices advanced by 0.9 percent in July after rising by 0.5 percent in June. Core prices were expected to show another 0.5 percent increase.

The annual rate of growth in core prices accelerated to 6.1 percent in July from 5.5 percent in June, showing the biggest increase since 12-month data were first calculated in August 2014.

Apple Inc. shares gained more than 2 percent. Microsoft and Telsa advanced by about 1 percent and 2 percent, respectively.

Walt Disney shares surged up more than 6 percent. Merck, Cisco Systems, Johnson & Johnson and United Health also closed on the positive side, albeit with less pronounced gains.

Visa, Intel and Caterpillar drifted lower.

In overseas trading, European stocks extended their winning streak as the mood remained positive on Thursday amid continued optimism about earnings and economic recovery.

Wednesday's inflation data from the U.S. that suggested the Federal Reserve is unlikely to taper its bond buying program anytime soon continued to aid sentiment.

Among the major markets, Germany and France closed on a firm note, with their benchmarks DAX and CAC 40 moving up 0.7 percent and 0.36 percent, respectively. The U.K.'s FTSE 100 ended down 0.37 percent.

Asian stocks ended broadly lower on Thursday amid increasing COVID-19 risks and concerns over the recent regulatory crackdown in China. The downside remained capped as a tame U.S. inflation reading suggested the Federal Reserve might not be in a hurry to tighten policy.

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