Wall Street rose for a third straight day on Thursday as investors were encouraged to see jobless claims fall and a handful of large retailers report solid sales.
Stocks have regained their footing after a slew of poor data had raised fears of a double-dip recession. But low market volume suggested investors are still skeptical, and few expect to see a sustained rally.
The Dow rose more than 1 percent, bolstered by late-day buying. Consumer staples <.GSPS> were the S&P's best-performing sector, with Costco Wholesale Corp rising 2.6 percent at $55.71. The sector gained 1.5 percent.
The data we saw today was better than what we are used to seeing ... it shed a bit of hope, said Steve Goldman, market strategist at Weeden & Co in Greenwich, Connecticut.
But there is still so much bearishness in the market that it is causing stocks to swing in such a swift manner.
The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> was up 120.71 points, or 1.20 percent, at 10,138.99. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> was up 9.98 points, or 0.94 percent, at 1,070.25. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> was up 15.93 points, or 0.74 percent, at 2,175.40.
Teen apparel retailers like Abercrombie & Fitch and department store chains like JC Penney Co topped expectations in their June sales. JC Penney shares rose 6.7 percent to $23.24 and Abercrombie & Fitch Co jumped 7.8 percent to $35.45.
But semiconductor shares fell after posting their best one-day gain in weeks on Wednesday.
It's a nervous environment, and there is not a whole lot of confidence in the market for investors to jump in with both feet, said Scott Marcouiller, senior equity market strategist at Wells Fargo Advisors in St. Louis.
Micron Technology fell 2.3 percent to $8.69 and the PHLX semiconductor index <.SOXX> slipped 0.1 percent after rising more than 5 percent on Wednesday.
Apple was down 0.2 percent at $258.09 and Intel fell 0.2 percent to $20.10.
Sales at stores open at least a year rose 3.1 percent for the month, according to company reports, just shy of the 3.2 percent increase that Wall Street predicted.
Even though sales grew, retailers relied heavily on promotions to win over cautious consumers in June.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 21,000 to a seasonally adjusted 454,000 in the week ended July 3, the lowest level since early May, the Labor Department said.
Volume was about 8.1 billion shares traded on the New York Stock Exchange, the American Stock Exchange and Nasdaq, well below last year's estimated daily average of 9.65 billion.
Advancing stocks outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by 2327 to 691 while on the Nasdaq, advancers beat decliners by 1818 to 783.
(Reporting by Angela Moon, Editing by Kenneth Barry)