S&P in reach of five-year high as jobs data looms

THE S&P 500 extended gains to a fourth day yesterday, putting it on the cusp of a new five-year high if today’s jobs report shows encouraging signs for the labor market.

The rally was broad, with all 10 S&P 500 sectors up and financials in the lead. The S&P’s financial index gained 1.5 per cent.

In the tech arena, Google shares hit a new 52-week high of $769.89 earlier in the session. The stock ended up 0.7 per cent at $768.05.

The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits rose only slightly last week after a big drop the week before, the Labor Department reported yesterday, leading to hopes that today’s closely watched non-farm payrolls report would show improvement.

The CBOE Volatility index, Wall Street’s fear gauge, fell 5.7 per cent to 14.55. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 80.75 points, or 0.6 per cent, to 13,575.36 at the close. The S&P 500 rose 10.41 points, or 0.72 per cent, to 1,461.40. The Nasdaq Composite added 14.23 points, or 0.45 per cent, to end at 3,149.46.

The S&P 500 has climbed 16.2 per cent so far this year. That strong gain, combined with weak global economic data and questions of whether Spain’s bailout will come to pass, have prompted some investors to say the rally is starting to look overextended.

Data showed US retailers’ September sales looked solid as shoppers wrapped up back-to-school buying and put the brakes on more big spending before the holiday season. Costco Wholesale shares rose 1.9 per cent to $101.48 after it reported a better-than-expected 6 per cent rise in September sales.