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S&P, Dow, Russell hit all-time highs

Specialists Peter Kennedy, left, Bernard Wheeler, center, and

Specialists Peter Kennedy, left, Bernard Wheeler, center, and Philip Finale confer on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday. (July 31, 2013) Credit: AP

The stock market got jolted out of the summer doldrums Thursday by better news on the economy, sending indexes to all-time highs.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index, the Dow Jones industrial average and the Russell 2000 all set records. The S&P broke through 1,700 points for the first time. The Nasdaq hit its highest level since September 2000.

Gains were driven by a steady flow of encouraging reports on the global economy.

Overnight, a positive read on China's manufacturing helped shore up Asian markets. Then, just before U.S. trading started, the government reported that unemployment claims fell last week. At midmorning a trade group said U.S. factories revved up production last month.

"It's just a lot of things adding up," said Russell Croft, portfolio manager at Croft Value Fund in Baltimore. "It's hard to put your finger on why exactly, but basically it's a bunch of pretty good data points coming together to make a very good day."

Overall, analysts said, the news was good but not overwhelmingly so. Enough to suggest that the economy is improving, but not enough to prompt the Federal Reserve to withdraw its economic stimulus programs.

The S&P 500 index rose 1.25 percent to 1,706.87. The Dow rose 128.48 points to 15,628.02. The Russell 2000 of small-company stocks rose 1.4 percent to 1,059.88.

The Nasdaq composite index rose 1.36 percent to 3,675.74, in line with the daily gains of other indexes but not near its record. The Nasdaq, which is heavily weighted with technology stocks, briefly veered above 5,000 points in March 2000, just before the Internet bubble burst.

It's quite common for indexes to hit records. Since 1950, the S&P has hit a new high about 7 percent of the time, or an average of about every 15 days, Courtney said. The S&P's last record close was not so long ago, on July 22.

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