Stocks jumped Thursday to reach record levels as traders eyed a much stronger than expected print on consumer spending and a sharp improvement in the number of new jobless claims.
The Dow gained more than 300 points, or about 0.9%, to reach a record intraday and closing high and break above the 34,000 level. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq also rose to reverse declines from a day earlier, with tech stocks leading both indexes higher by more than 1%.
Traders digested a key print on the strength of the U.S. consumer on Thursday, with the Commerce Department’s March retail sales showing the best monthly rise in retail sales since May 2020. Retail sales surged by 9.8%, with stimulus checks and easing social distancing standards helping fuel the gain.
“What caught our eye was the 13.4% surge in spending on food and drink services, while clothing store sales were up by 18.1%. Relative to pre-pandemic levels, food and drink services sales are down just 5.1%, while clothing store sales are now higher than they were in February 2020,” Michael Pearce, senior U.S. economist for Capital Economics, said in an email Thursday. “That suggests a combination of loosening restrictions and easing of virus fears linked to the vaccine rollout are driving a rapid return to normalcy.”