US stock markets hit record highs again on Thursday boosted by a sharp rise in consumer spending, falling unemployment claims and strong earnings from some of the largest US companies.
The economy appears to be rebounding strongly from the Covid-19 pandemic as vaccination rates surge and businesses reopen.
The commerce department said retail spending increased by nearly 10% in March as federal stimulus funds made their way to households and pandemic-related restrictions were lifted. The gains were broad-based, with restaurants and bars and retail, two sectors hit hard by the pandemic, gaining ground.
The retail news came as the number of people filing for unemployment benefits hit a record low. According to the latest figures from the labor department 576,000 people filed unemployment claims last week, down from 769,000 a week earlier. While the number is still twice as high as it was before the coronavirus arrived in the US, it marks a low point in claims for the pandemic.
Markets were further cheered by better than expected results from some of the country’s largest companies. Citigroup released better than expected quarterly results on Thursday morning and BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, logged a 16% jump in profit.
The reports come a day after a strong report from JP Morgan and record results from Goldman Sachs boosted by a strong performance from the firm’s investment banking and trading businesses.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 256 points in morning trading, passing 34,000 for the first time after a slew of good news about the economy. The S&P also hit an intraday high.
“I am incredibly bullish on the markets,” Larry Fink, BlackRock chief executive, said in an interview on CNBC’s Squawk Box. “I believe because of monetary stimulus, fiscal stimulus, cash on the sidelines, earnings, markets are OK. Markets are going to continue to be stronger.”