U.S. stocks rallied in a brief pre-holiday session on Thursday, closing at 2009 highs, after data showing a drop in initial jobless claims and growth in durable goods orders suggested an economic recovery was picking up steam.
Stocks racked up a fifth day of gains on light volume before the Christmas holiday. After finishing early for Christmas Eve on Thursday, markets will be closed on Friday.
Data showed initial jobless claims fell more than forecast last week to the lowest tally since September 2008, while a separate report showed durable goods orders, excluding transportation, surged 2.0 percent, beating expectations.
The reports were more wind at the market's back, said
Michael James, senior trader at regional investment bank Wedbush Morgan in Los Angeles.
Stocks that have performed well this year received an extra lift from year-end window dressing as portfolio managers sold laggards to buy shares that have rallied recently. Apple Inc
There's far more people who have gains on a lot of names this year, who are less likely to want to sell, James said.
The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> gained 53.66 points, or 0.51 percent, to end at 10,520.10. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> gained 5.89 points, or 0.53 percent, to finish at 1,126.48. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> rose 16.05 points, or 0.71 percent, to close at 2,285.69.
NASDAQ UP 45 PERCENT FOR 2009
For the week, the Dow gained 1.9 percent, the S&P 500 rose 2.2 percent, and the Nasdaq jumped 3.4 percent, capping its longest winning streak since October.
With the Dow setting a 14-month closing high on Thursday,
the blue-chip average is up 19.9 percent for 2009.
The S&P 500, which also finished Thursday's abbreviated session at a 14-month high, is up 24.7 percent for the year.
The Nasdaq -- ending at a 15-month closing high on Thursday -- is up an eye-catching 45 percent for 2009.
In Thursday's session, Apple's stock also got a boost as excitement intensified over the expected release of its tablet computer.
Healthcare was the lone S&P 500 sector to end slightly lower after the U.S. Senate approved an overhaul measure Thursday morning.
Health insurer Cigna Corp
Health insurers and related stocks have rallied recently as legislation appeared less ominous for the sector than originally feared. But the Senate health bill must be reconciled with the measure approved recently by the U.S. House of Representatives, adding to uncertainty.
The U.S. dollar <.DXY> dipped 0.08 percent against a basket of major currencies, which helped push commodity prices higher. That, in turn, lifted shares of natural resource companies. Shares of steelmaker Nucor Corp
Volume was light on the New York Stock Exchange, with only 319.3 million shares changing hands, sharply below last year's estimated daily average of 1.49 billion. On the Nasdaq, about 613.8 million shares traded, also well below last year's daily average of 2.28 billion.
Advancing stocks outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a ratio of 3 to 1, while on the Nasdaq, eight stocks rose for nearly every five that fell.
(Reporting by Leah Schnurr; Editing by Jan Paschal)