Stocks closed with solid gains Thursday, breaking a three-day slump. The Standard & Poor's 500 index closed at another record high and the Dow Jones industrial average came within 36 points of its own record.
JUST THE NUMBERS. At the close on Wall Street, the S&P 500 added 22.6 points, about 1.1 percent, to 2,121.1. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 191.8 points, about 1.1 percent, to 18,252.2. The Nasdaq composite climbed 69 points, about 1.4 percent, to 5,050.8.
About the same time, U.S. benchmark crude oil was down 71 cents, about 1.7 percent, at $59.79 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS: The Labor Department said that fewer people applied for unemployment aid last week, pushing the four-week average down to its lowest level since April 2000. Applications are a proxy for layoffs, so the very low level is evidence that Americans are enjoying more job security. It is also a sign employers are confident enough in the economy to hold on to their employees, despite signs of sluggish growth.
FALLING PRICES: The government said Thursday that the producer price index, which tracks the prices of goods and services before they reach consumers, fell 0.4 percent last month. That could mean that the Federal Reserve will hold off on raising its key interest rate until this fall, said Erik Davidson, chief investment officer for Wells Fargo Private Bank.
"Inflation is not a big issue," he said. "The market consensus has to be that it will be September or later that the Fed will move."
SECTOR MONITOR: The 10 sectors in the S&P 500 moved higher, with technology stocks leading the pack. The sector is up 4.6 percent this year. St. Jude Medical notched the biggest gain among stocks in the S&P 500, adding $2.76, or 3.9 percent, to $74.79.