Closing Bell: Markets Set Records on Upbeat Economic News

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U.S. stocks jumped Thursday, pushing the S&P 500 above 1,700 for the first time, as data suggested the economy is still improving and as the Federal Reserve vowed to keep its stimulus plan in place. Both the S&P and the Dow ended the day at record highs.

The Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) rose 126.95 points or 0.82 percent, to 15,626.49. The Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GSPC) climbed 21.09 points, or 1.25 percent, to 1,706.82, and the Nasdaq composite index (^IXIC) added 49.37 points or 1.36 percent, to close at 3,675.74.

Data on weekly U.S. initial jobless claims and national manufacturing came in better than expected, while construction spending dropped 0.6 percent in June, below forecasts calling for a 0.4 percent rise.

Those numbers were the latest in a data-filled week. The drop in initial claims, coupled with Wednesday's better-than-expected ADP employment report, bodes well for July payrolls data on Friday.

Average rates on fixed mortgages ticked up this week but are still low by historical standards. Freddie Mac reported the average rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage rose to 4.39 percent.

The nation's automakers reported higher sales in July as Americans bought more small cars. General Motors (GM) said its car sales jumped 24 percent, including a 42 percent increase in subcompact and small car sales. Honda Civic sales were up 30 percent to 32,416, their best July in 13 years. Ford (F), Chrysler, Toyota (TM) and Nissan -- along with GM and Honda (HMC) -- all reported double-digit sales gains last month. Of major automakers, only Volkswagen had a down month.

After a three-month hiatus, lawyers for J.C. Penney (JCP), Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (MSO) and Macy's (M) were back in court Thursday to offer closing arguments in a case involving Macy's claim to exclusive rights to sell certain Martha Stewart-branded merchandise. A decision is expected as early as Friday.

More Stocks in the News
  • J.C. Penney (JCP) said a media report about commercial lender CIT Group (CIT) stopping funding to its suppliers is untrue, but the beleaguered retailer still lost 2 cents, or 0.14 percent, to end at $14.58.
  • A U.S. judge gave final approval to a $590 million settlement by Citigroup to resolve a shareholder lawsuit that accused the bank of hiding tens of billions of dollars of toxic mortgage assets. But the court awarded substantially lower fees and expenses than sought by the plaintiffs lawyers. Shares of Citigroup (C) gained 73 cents, or 1.4 percent, to $52.86.
  • Creditors overwhelmingly approved the bankruptcy reorganization plan for American Airlines parent AMR Corp., which includes a merger with US Airways Group (LCC) that would create the world's biggest airline. AMR said preliminary results show that at least 88 percent of the ballots cast by creditors favored the turnaround plan, while AMR shareholders backed the plan by 99 percent. The plan still needs approval from a federal bankruptcy judge, who has scheduled a confirmation hearing for Aug. 15.
  • Shares of ITT Corp. (ITT) jumped 9.92 percent to $34.34 after the industrial conglomerate topped Wall Street expectations for the second quarter on stronger sales of brake pads, as well as pumps and valves used in the oil and gas industry. ITT also raised its profit and revenue projections for the entire year.
  • DreamWorks Animation (DWA) jumped, $2.19, or 8.84 percent, to $26.95, after the computer-animation studio reported second-quarter profits rose 74 percent on increased revenue and margins. The results beat expectations.
  • CBS (CBS) rose 3.86 percent to $54.88 after reporting an 11 percent jump in income. The network is making more money licensing its shows to online streaming providers and increasing the fees it receives from cable and satellite TV distributors.
What to Watch Friday
  • At 8:30 a.m. Eastern time, the Labor Department releases employment data for July, and the Commerce Department releases personal income and spending for June.
  • The Commerce Department releases factory orders for June at 10 a.m.
These companies are scheduled to report quarterly financial results:
  • Brinker International (EAT)
  • Chevron Corp. (CVX)
  • Toyota Motor Corp. (TM)
  • Viacom Inc. (VIA)
-Compiled from staff and wire reports.

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