S&P hits highest point since 2008

The S&P 500 closed above 1,400 for the first time since the 2008 financial crisis yesterday as stocks resumed the upward climb that has produced a steady stream of gains this year.

The benchmark index is up for six of the past seven sessions and is on target for its best week since early February. Financial stocks, which have dragged lately, led the day with the S&P sector index up 1.9 per cent as another round of better-than-expected economic data bolstered investors' enthusiasm.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 0.44 per cent, to 13,252.76, closing out a seventh straight day of gains. The S&P 500 advanced 8.32 points, or 0.6 per cent, to 1,402.60 at the close. The Nasdaq Composite Index gained 15.64 points, or 0.51 per cent, to 3,056.37.

Apple pulled back 0.7 per cent to $585.56 at the close, ending a six-day streak of gains, though it hit a new all-time high at $600.01 in early trading. Some analysts have predicted the stock will move to $700 within 12 months.

New claims for US unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell back to a four-year low last week, another sign of improving labour market conditions, while producer prices, excluding food and energy, were contained.

Manufacturing data in New York and the US mid-Atlantic region also improved, according to regional Federal Reserve surveys.

Cisco Systems fell 1.4 per cent to $19.91 after it agreed to buy NDS for $5bn, the Dow component’s first major acquisition in over two years.

Semiconductors moved higher, led by Advanced Micro Devices, which jumped 6.3 per cent to $8.25 after Jefferies upgraded the stock to “buy.” The Philadelphia Semiconductor Index gained two per cent.

Ross Stores reported a higher profit for the holiday quarter as shoppers sought out popular clothing brands at discount prices, and the off-price chain forecast “respectable” sales and profit gains for this fiscal year. Shares dropped 0.4 per cent to $56.35. The Morgan Stanley retail index rose 0.8 per cent.

Three initial public offerings made their debuts yesterday: cloud computing-based software company Demandware, analog chipmaker M/A-Com Technology Solutions Holdings and Allison Transmission Holdings.

Demandware surged 47.4 per cent to $23.59, M/A-Com advanced 8.2 per cent to $20.55 and Allison Transmission rose 1.7 per cent to $23.40.