Stocks Post Gains on Upbeat Economic Reports

Tickers in this article: ARO BLK CS F HLF NOK PSMT RT TIF ^DJI ^GSPC ^IXIC

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Major U.S. stock averages climbed Thursday on optimism over an upbeat set of China trade numbers and hopeful comments on the eurozone economy.

Support also came from comments by St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank President James Bullard that the U.S. economy may experience strong growth this year and the next, partly thanks to the central bank's policy easing.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed up 81 points, or 0.6%, to 13,471.

Breadth was positive, with winners outpacing losers 25 to five.

Bank of America (BAC) , Hewlett-Packard(HPQ) , Intel(INTC) and JPMorgan(JPM) were the top percentage gainers in the Dow.

The biggest blue-chip losers were DuPont(DD) , Alcoa(AA) and Microsoft(MSFT) .

The S&P 500 added 11 points, or 0.8%, to 1,472. The Nasdaq increased 16 points, or 0.5%, to 3,122.

"Despite volatile swings, the U.S. corporate sector has generated impressive gains in profits per domestic resident over the past 20 years," said Julia Coronado, an economist at BNP Paribas. "Much of this reflects how well U.S. companies have shifted their focus to and taken advantage of stronger growth prospects abroad. Alcoa's results on Tuesday suggest the outlook for 2013 is a little brighter."

Still, Coronado cautioned that since much of the expansion in capital investment and hiring is occurring abroad the implications for the U.S. economy would be more muted.

All sectors in the broader market, except capital goods, traded higher. The strongest sector gainers were conglomerates, consumer non-cyclicals, energy and financials.

Volumes totaled 4.04 billion shares on the New York Stock Exchange and 1.75 billion shares on the Nasdaq. Advancers were narrowly edging decliners by a 1.9-to-1 ratio on the Big Board and 1.4-to-1 on the Nasdaq.

The Labor Department reported Thursday that initial jobless claims for the week ended Jan. 5 rose by 4,000 to 371,000, from the prior week's downwardly revised figure of 367,000. Economists were expecting claims to come in at 365,000.

"More generally, the claims data can be volatile this time of year because of the difficulty of seasonal adjustment around the holidays," said Kevin Cummins, an economist at UBS. "It will be several more weeks before the claims data are free of influence from the holiday seasonal factors. Thus, we attach little weight to possible swings for the next couple of weeks."

Continuing claims for the week ended Dec. 29 were at 3.109 million, a decrease of 127,000 from the preceding week's downwardly revised level of 3.236 million. On average, expectations were for continuing claims of 3.23 million.

The Census Bureau reported that wholesale inventories rose 0.6% in November, after increasing by a downwardly revised 0.3% in October, versus the rise of 0.3% expected by economists. However, worries about declining demand were shrugged off in light of the fall in the inventory-to-sales ratio.

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