Dow closes at a record high for a third day

NEW YORK REPORT

US stocks closed modestly higher yesterday, with the Dow ending at a record for a third straight day as jobless claims data pointed to a pick-up in the labor market’s recovery a day before the closely watched payrolls report.

The Dow and the S&P 500 were both up for their fifth straight days as investors looked for opportunities to buy into the recent rally. However, caution ahead of the jobs report curbed gains and kept the S&P more than 1 per cent below its record close.

Growth-oriented sectors led the day's gains. The S&P financial index added 0.7 percent and hit an intraday high. Shares of Dow component Bank of America rose 2.9 per cent to $12.26 while JP Morgan Chase added 1.2 per cent to $50.63.

A strengthening economy and loose monetary policy by central banks around the world have pushed US stocks higher this year. Investors have kept buying into the market since Tuesday’s rally, but gains have been more subdued.

Worries remain as Washington debates the path of fiscal policy, the Eurozone is not out of its crisis, and US economic growth remains anemic.

However, the latest economic data was encouraging, as the number of Americans filing claims for unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell last week to a seasonally adjusted 340,000. It was the second straight week of declines. Investors will stay focused on the labor market ahead of today’s non-farm payrolls report, which is expected to show the US economy added 160,000 jobs in February.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 33.25 points, or 0.23 per cent, to 14,329.49, a record closing high. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index added 2.80 points, or 0.18 per cent, to 1,544.26. The Nasdaq Composite Index gained 9.72 points, or 0.30 per cent, to end at 3,232.09.