Retailers help lift Dow, S&P to new highs

Specialist Patrick Kenny, left, and trader Fred Demarco Specialist Patrick Kenny, left, and trader Fred Demarco work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday. Both the Dow and S&P climbed more than 1 percent on Wednesday to close at historic highs, boosted by cyclical shares for a second consecutive day. (April 10, 2013) Photo Credit: AP

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Despite an overall tepid report on March retail sales, a handful of retailers, including Rite Aid and Ross Stores, surged Thursday after turning in better sales. The numbers sent major stock market indexes up for a fourth day straight.

The discount chain Ross Stores jumped 6 percent, the best gain in the Standard & Poor's 500 index. The company said stronger sales in March will likely push profits above its previous estimate this quarter.

Rite Aid soared 18 percent after the drugstore chain said higher sales of generic drugs and lower costs helped it post better earnings than analysts had expected.

A surprising drop in claims for unemployment benefits last week also gave investors more encouragement.

The Dow Jones industrial average gained 62.90 points to close at 14,865.14, an increase of 0.42 percent. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 0.36 percent, to 1,593.37.

Makers of computer hardware and software sank after a report first-quarter shipments of PCs dropped 14 percent worldwide over the past year. That's the steepest fall since International Data Corp. started tracking the industry in 1994.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index rose 0.09 percent to 3,300.16.

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