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March 06. 2014 8:29PM

S&P 500 ends at record on jobless data

NEW YORK — Stocks mostly rose on Thursday, with the S&P 500 closing at yet another record on better-than-expected jobless claims data and the European Central Bank’s move to keep rates unchanged.

But the overall sentiment was cautious ahead of Friday’s all-important U.S. nonfarm payrolls report and tensions between Ukraine and Russia.

The CBOE Volatility Index or VIX, Wall Street’s so-called fear gauge, ended up 2.3 percent at 14.21.The VIX generally moves inversely to the performance of the S&P 500 and is often used to hedge against a market decline.

Trading volume was also lower than average, with about 6.4 billion shares traded on U.S. exchanges, according to data from BATS Global Markets, below the daily average of about 7 billion in the past month.

“We had a bit of a selloff in midday session and late afternoon, but the fact the S&P 500 managed to set another record shows how much resistance this market has to geopolitical overhang that is clearly not over, resistance to bad news,” said Tim Ghriskey, chief investment officer of Solaris Asset Management in Bedford Hills, New York.

Thursday’s milestone marked the S&P 500’s fourth record closing high over the past six sessions.

Weekly applications for U.S. unemployment insurance fell to 323,000, the lowest in three months, a sign of strength in a labor market that has been hobbled by severe weather. New orders for U.S. factory goods, however, fell more than expected in January and shipments also slipped, adding to signs of a recent slowdown in manufacturing activity.

The day’s biggest gainers were stocks in basic materials, financial and industrial sectors, often associated with strong economic fundamentals. The S&P basic materials index was up 0.4 percent, the S&P financial index was up 0.7 percent and the S&P industrials index was up 0.6 percent.

But the Nasdaq 100 fell 0.2 percent, led lower by Staples, which lost 15.3 percent to $11.35.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 61.71 points or 0.38 percent, to end at 16,421.89. The S&P 500 gained 3.22 points or 0.17 percent, to finish at 1,877.03. The Nasdaq Composite dropped 5.848 points or 0.13 percent, to close at 4,352.125.



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