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
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%
(+) 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.
(-) 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.
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