The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

March 14, 2013

US stocks rise in midday trading, S&P nears record



NEW YORK (AP) — Encouraging news from the job market pushed the stock market up early Thursday, putting the Standard & Poor's 500 index near its all-time high.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index gained six points to 1,560, a rise of 0.4 percent. It's just five points away from the record high it reached in October 2007.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 62 points to 14,517, putting the index on course for 10 straight days of gains. The last time that happened was November 1996. Chevron led the Dow higher, rising more than 1 percent.

The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell to a five-year low last week, the Labor Department reported, implying that the job market is strengthening. The four-week average, a more stable measure, fell to the lowest since March 2008, four months after the economy slid into the Great Recession.

On Wednesday, there was more positive news on the economy when the Commerce Department reported that U.S. retail spending increased in February at the fastest pace in five months. That came despite higher payroll taxes that kicked in at the beginning of the year.

"We've been getting some really good economic statistics," said Doug Cote, chief market strategist for ING U.S. Investment Management. "And that's positive for asset prices."

The gains were broad in early trading, though slight. Of the 10 industries in the S&P 500, utilities and health care companies were the only groups to fall. The Nasdaq composite rose 10 points, or 0.3 percent, to 3,255.

The stock market's surge this year will likely pull more people out of cash and into stocks, analysts say. The Dow is up 10 percent so far this year, the S&P 9 percent.

"When the markets are running you just want to be part of it," Cote said. "Sitting on the sidelines is the wrong move."

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