Bank stocks led indexes on a broad march higher, as the S&P 500 marked a five-year closing high for the second time this year.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 80.71 points, or 0.6%, to 13471.22. Bank of America (BAC)
The Standard & Poor's 500-stock index rose 11.10 points, or 0.8%, to 1472.12, as all 10 sectors advanced. The Nasdaq Composite Index rose 15.95 points, or 0.5%, to 3121.76, its highest level in three months.
Financial shares notched the biggest gains in the S&P 500 ahead of Wells Fargo (WFC)'s
"The world is thinking that fourth-quarter numbers may be not as pessimistic as would have been expected two or three weeks ago. We will see," said Peter Tuz, president of Chase Investment Counsel, which manages about $600 million out of Charlottesville, Va.
Morgan Stanley (MS)
In the U.S., initial claims for unemployment benefits in the latest week were higher than expected, but continuing claimsâthose drawn by workers for more than a weekâdropped to the lowest level since 2008. And jobless claims for the week ending Dec. 28 were adjusted lower.
"The guts of the report showed that the labor market could be improving, especially when you look at continuing claims," said Andrew Wilkinson, chief economic strategist with Miller Tabak & Co.
Meanwhile, China's trade surplus in December increased from the month before, boosted by a bigger-than-expected jump in exports from year-earlier levels, a sign that China's recovery may be picking up steam.
"The [economic] slowdown in China may now be behind them. Today's report was more evidence of that," said Jim Baird, chief investment strategist for Plante Moran Financial Advisors, which oversees $7.2 billion in assets.
Asian markets gained in response to the China news. Japan's Nikkei Stock Average climbed 0.7%, as exporters received a lift from a decline in the yen. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index rose 0.6% and South Korea's Kospi climbed 0.8%.
The Stoxx Europe 600 declined 0.3%, but shares in Spain and Italy edged higher after strong debt auctions. Spain's IBEX 35 index rose 0.2%, while Italy's FTSE MIB index climbed 0.7%. The European Central Bank and Bank of England left interest rates unchanged, as widely expected.
Gold gained 1.4%, to $1,677.30 a troy ounce. The dollar fell against the euro and edged higher against the yen. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 1.894% as prices fell.
In corporate news, Tiffany (TIF)
Facebook rose 71 cents, or 2.3%, to 31.30, building on recent gains. The stock rose 5.3% on Wednesday and has climbed 15% this month.
AÃ©ropostale slid 13 cents, or 1%, to 13.24, after holiday sales slumped from 2011. It cut its earnings forecast for the fourth quarter.
Ford Motor (F)
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