Encouraging economic reports pushed stocks higher Thursday. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 61 points, its third gain in a row.
The number of people applying for jobless benefits dropped last week -- the third week in a row -- to the lowest level since April 2008, the latest sign the job market is healing. The Conference Board also reported its measure of future economic activity had a big increase last month. It was the second straight gain, signaling the economy was picking up speed.
"Today, Main Street is what matters, because Main Street makes up 71 percent of the economy," said Quincy Krosby, chief market strategist for Prudential Securities. "You can't argue with the fact that the cost of gas has come down, which puts more money in the pockets of consumers to spend, and so things are starting to tick up."
The government lowered its estimate of economic growth in the July-September quarter to an annual rate of 1.8 percent from 2 percent. That was still the fastest growth this year.
The Dow rose 61.91 points, or 0.51 percent, to 12,169.65. It has risen 409 points in three days. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 10.28 points, or 0.83 percent, to 1,254.00. The Nasdaq closed up 21.48 points, or 0.83 percent, at 2,599.45. -- AP