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Stocks rise as economy strengthens, central banks step back

Specialist Gregg Maloney, center, works with traders at

Specialist Gregg Maloney, center, works with traders at the post that handles AT&T and the Walt Disney Co. on the floor of the NYSE on Wednesday. Photo Credit: AP / Richard Drew

Stocks mostly rose Thursday, as markets get accustomed to the idea of investing with less of a safety net from central banks around the world.

The European Central Bank laid out its plan to pull back from the stimulus it's pumped into markets, but it also said it plans to hold off on raising interest rates for longer than some investors expected.

"Central banks around the world are going to err toward being more accommodative, and they don't want to cause a market shock," said Brent Schutte, chief investment strategist at Northwestern Mutual Wealth Management.

More evidence arrived that the U.S. economy is improving, meanwhile, which helped send the S&P 500 to its fourth gain in the last five days.

The S&P 500 index rose 6.86 points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,782.49. The Dow Jones industrial average slipped 25.89, or 0.1 percent, to 25,175.31, and the Nasdaq composite rose 65.34, or 0.8 percent, to 7,761.04, a record. Roughly four stocks rose for every three that fell.

On Thursday, the data for the economy were nearly uniformly encouraging.

Retail sales jumped in May after shoppers spent more at home and garden stores, gas stations and restaurants. It was the strongest gain in six months, and it fits with economists' projections that economic growth is picking up.

A separate report showed that fewer U.S. workers filed for unemployment claims last week than expected, an encouraging sign for the labor market.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 2.93 percent from 2.98 percent late Wednesday.

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