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S&P 500 Closes Above 1400

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- U.S. stocks gained ground Thursday with the S&P 500 finishing above 1400 for the first time since June 2008.

The Dow closed up 58.7 points, or 0.4%, at 13,253. The blue-chip index finished higher for the seventh straight session. The S&P 500 finished up 8.3 points, or 0.6%, at 1403, crossing 1400 the first time since June 6, 2008.

The Nasdaq Composite was up 15.6 points, or 0.5%, at 3056. Shares of Apple (AAPL - Get Report), briefly topped $600 but closed lower after Deutsche Bank reportedly removed the stock from its short-term buy list.

Breadth among the blue chips was positive as 20 of the Dow's 30 components moved higher, led by Bank of America (BAC), JPMorgan Chase (JPM), and General Electric (GE).

Cisco Systems (symbol), Chevron (CVX) and Home Depot (HD) were all lower on the day.

More evidence of jobs market improvement was seen in the Labor Department's weekly read on initial jobless claims, which continued to hover near a four-year low. Jobless claims for the week ended March 10 fell 14,000 to 351,000. Economists expected 356,000, according to estimates by Thomson Reuters. The four-week moving average was unchanged.

In other economic data, the Empire State Manufacturing Index for March came in at 20.21, above the forecast for 17.50. February saw a reading of 19.53. Employment and inventory improvement helped the headline figure higher but on the downside, the report said the pricing pressures remain.

The Labor Department this morning also suggested that inflation may have ticked up temporarily due to rising gas prices. "The fact that Treasury Inflation Protected Securities continue to outperform nominal Treasuries means inflation premiums are coming back," says Michael Gayed, chief investment strategist at Pension Partners.

The producer price index for February rose 0.4% in February, about in line with expectations for a 0.5% rise, after a 0.1% gain in the prior month. Excluding food and gas costs, the core reading rose 0.2% as expected after a 0.4% gain in January.

The consumer price index (CPI), to be released Friday, should give investors a better idea of how the inflation picture is shaping up. "If the CPI comes out a little hot, it might reduce the probability of quantitative easing 3 by the Fed, and in turn would justify the spike up in yields in bonds," Gayed said.

There's "a lot of data but not too much excitement," adds David Ader, market strategist with CRT Capital Group. "Claims [were] close to expectations with upward revision and continue to portray a better labor picture. [The manufacturing report] was stronger ... with underlying concerns like the drop in new orders, shipments, prices received so [its] more balanced then the headline gain suggests ... [The producer price index] is not one we pay a lot of heed to but we do note that the pipeline measures were friendly."

The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia reported that its index on regional manufacturing activity came in at a level of 12.5 in March after 10.2 in the prior month. The latest read was the highest since April 2011.
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Chart of I:DJI
DOW 16,776.43 +304.06 1.85%
S&P 500 1,987.05 +35.69 1.83%
NASDAQ 4,781.2640 +73.4890 1.56%

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