U.S. stocks advanced on Thursday, with the main indexes posting their fifth consecutive monthly gain. Meanwhile, a rally in biotech shares pushed the Nasdaq Composite into record territory.
Earlier, a pair of economic reports in the morning that highlighted continued improvement in the economy also boosted sentiment on Wall Street.
The Nasdaq Composite
notched its first record close since July 26, thanks to a two-day rally in biotechnology stocks. The tech-heavy index added 60.35 points, or 1%, to 6,428.66 and gained 1.3% over the month. The iShares Nasdaq Biotech ETF
rallied 2.8% and posted 4.5% gain in August.
The S&P 500
closed 14.06 points, or 0.6%, higher at 2,471.64, with nine of the 11 main sectors finishing in positive territory. Health-care stocks led the gains, up 1.7%, followed by solid gains among materials and technology shares, with gains of 0.8% and 0.7%, respectively. The only down sector was telecoms, down 0.3%.
Thursday’s gains helped the benchmark index post its fifth consecutive monthly gain, rising less than 0.1%.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average
added 59.92 points, or 0.3%, to 21,952.35, with 22 of the 30 blue-chip companies closing higher. DuPont
, which gained 1.6%; Pfizer Inc.
, up 1.4%; and UnitedHealth Group Inc.
, up 1.5%, led the gains. The blue-chip index gained 0.3% over the month and is up 11% year to date.
The S&P has climbed 10.5%, and the tech-heavy Nasdaq has surged 19% since the start of the year.
“Biotech rally, which created an upside momentum in the market amid very low volumes, has been driving the market over the past two days,” said Sahak Manuelian, managing director of equity trading at Wedbush Securities.
Some analysts said the market has been supported by earnings and a positive economic environment over the past several months.
Thursday’s economic releases came in mostly in line with expectations, confirming a positive trend in growth.
Low levels of first-time jobless claims suggest the labor market remains robust, while consumer spending — the biggest driver of the economy — picked up in July, thanks to higher income for consumers and low inflation.
“In an environment where the economy and earnings continue to grow, markets will also climb. Geopolitics shake up markets from time to time, but usually do not have long-lasting impact,” said Arian Vojdani, investment strategist at MV Financial.
Equities and other assets viewed as relatively risky have stabilized after a late-August slump thanks in part to that better-than-expected U.S. data and a stronger-than-anticipated reading on Chinese manufacturing out Thursday, according to Richard Perry, a Hantec Markets analyst.
Data deluge: Consumer spending rose 0.3% last month, helped by higher incomes and low inflation. The pace of inflation, meanwhile, was little changed in July, up 0.1%.
Initial jobless claims in the period running from Aug. 20 to Aug. 26 rose by 1,000 to 236,000, which is still close to a postrecession low, pointing to another solid monthly employment report near the end of summer. The official jobs report will be released at 8:30 a.m. Eastern on Friday.
Separately, the Chicago PMI held steady at 58.9 in August.
See: August jobs data is crucial test for U.S. dollar
Check out: MarketWatch’s Economic Calendar
Other markets: U.S. oil prices
rose and gasoline futures
jumped above $2 a gallon on Thursday, as flooding due to Tropical Storm Harvey continued to wreak havoc on refineries along the Gulf Coast.
advanced but recorded another monthly drop, while Asian markets finished mostly higher. The ICE U.S. Dollar Index
erased earlier gains to trade lower against rival currencies, after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin didn’t promote a strong-dollar policy as is traditional for Treasury officials, suggesting a weaker buck may be good for trade. Gold futures
climbed to an 11-month high, posting a roughly 4% gain over the month.
Individual movers: Retailer Dollar General Corp.
and food giantCampbell Soup Co.
fell by 5.4% and 8%, respectively, after posting disappointing earnings results.
Software company Box Inc.
recouped earlier losses to end only 0.1% lower in the wake of its quarterly results late Wednesday.
Shares in Walt Disney Co.
fell 1.6% following news that it is preparing significant budget cuts at its Disney/ABC Television Group that will include staff reductions and restructuring efforts.
fell 1.9% in Paris after the French industrial chemicals manufacturer said it has been notified about two explosions and black smoke coming from its plant in Crosby, Texas, after flooding due to Tropical Storm Harvey. Arkema also trades in the U.S. via American depositary receipts