Stocks were mostly higher on Wall Street Thursday as investors received more signals that the economy is continuing to heal from the pandemic.
Economic reports showed that unemployment is falling and the U.S. economy grew at a solid rate during the first quarter.
The S&P 500 index rose 0.2% as of 11:35 a.m. Eastern. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 98 points, or 0.3% to 34,425 and the technology-heavy Nasdaq rose 0.1%. The Russell 2000 index of smaller stocks rose 0.8% in yet another signal that investors were confident about the economy going forward.
Industrial stocks led the gains. General Electric rose 5.8% and Boeing gained 3%. Utilities and health care companies lagged the broader market.
Investors were given a mostly positive set of economic reports on Thursday. The number of Americans who filed for unemployment benefits fell yet again to a pandemic low of 406,000. A growing number of states, all of them controlled by Republicans, have started cutting off unemployed workers from the $300-a-week jobless benefit that was part of the latest economic recovery package. That’s likely pushing additional Americans into the active labor force.
Meanwhile, there was disappointing data on sales of durable goods, that is expensive items that are expected to last three years or more, fell 1.3% according to the Commerce Department. That figure was expected to rise, according to economists.
Lastly the Commerce Department reported that the U.S. economy grew at a 6.4% annual rate in the first quarter as the economy recovers from the pandemic.
Investors will turn their attention to Friday’s inflation data. The growing economy has raised inflation concerns, though analysts expect that much of the increase will be tied to economic growth and will be digestible.
The data out Friday is the Commerce Department’s personal consumption expenditures index, more commonly referred to as PCE. The Federal Reserve, whose job is to monitor and control inflation as best as they can, tends to rely on PCE data more than the more widely known consumer price index, or CPI, when making policy decisions.
Bond yields have been relatively stable this week, and remained so on Thursday. The 10-year U.S. Treasury note traded at a yield of 1.61%, up from 1.57% the day before. It has remained in this range for the last two weeks.