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Closing Update: Markets Finish Again in Record Territory, Led by Shares of Financial Companies

Stocks overcame economic data Thursday showing a surprise drop in housing starts last month, with investors instead looking to layoffs falling to a two-week low last week and lifting the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 to new, all-time highs.

Eight of the 10 industry sectors in the S&P 500 finished higher today, led by shares of financial companies after Federal Reserve officials yesterday said they will keep benchmark interest rates near 0% for a considerable period. Despite the still-accommodative stance by the Fed, the U.S. dollar continued to rise against most other currencies, undercutting dollar-denominated commodities like crude oil, also driving down energy stocks today.

Crude oil for October delivery settled $1.35 lower at $93.07 per barrel while October natural gas fell 10 cents to finish at $3.91 per 1 million BTU. December gold declined $8.80 to $1226.80 per ounce while December silver slid 22 cents to $18.51 per ounce. December copper fell 5 cents to finish at $3.09 per pound.

The Commerce Department today reported a much larger-than-expected 14.4% drop in housing starts during August to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 956,000 although the bad news was somewhat tempered by July figures revised upward to a 1.12 million annualized pace from initial reports of a 1.093 million pace.

The number of individuals filing for new unemployment benefits during the week ended Sept 6 fell by 36,000 to 280,000 applications, the Labor Department said, easily exceeding estimates looking for a 10,000 decline last week to 315,000 first-time claims.

Here's where the U.S. markets stood at the end-of-day:

Dow Jones Industrial Average up 109.14 (+0.64%) to 17,265.99

S&P 500 up 9.79 (+0.49%) to 2,011.36

Nasdaq Composite Index up 31.24 (+0.68%) to 4,593.43

GLOBAL SENTIMENT

Nikkei 225 Index up 1.13%

Hang Seng Index down 0.85%

Shanghai China Composite Index up 0.35%

FTSE 100 Index up 0.57%

UPSIDE MOVERS

(+) PRQR, Prices upsized initial public offering of 7.5 mln shares at $13 each, the high end of its expected range. The company added an additional 1.2 mln shares to the deal just before the pricing.

(+) EMKR, Rallies to 18-month high after agreeing to sell its space photovoltaics business to Veritas Capital and the private equity firm paying $150 million in cash. Also, CEO Hong Q. Hou announces plans to step down as soon as a successor is found.

(+) VVUS, FDA approves the company's Stendra fast-acting drug treatment for erectile dysfunction.

DOWNSIDE MOVERS

(-) MCHX, Lowers forecast for call-driven revenue during Q3 ending later this month TO a range of $47.5 mln to $48.5 mln and around $170 mln to $172 mln during Q4 as Allstate ( ALL ) moves to a fixed-fee payment model from performance-based pay model.

(-) ECTE, Platinum Management LLC seeks return of its $5 mln investment in the company in December 2012, saying ECTE negotiated the stock sale in bad faith and with no plan of keeping up with its obligations. Platinum owns 30% of ECTE stock.

(-) USU, Discloses plans to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Sept. 30 under new name of Centrus Energy Corp and trading under new 'LEU' ticker.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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