The broad indices all saw significant gains, with the S&P 500 (SPX.X) crossing the 1,700 barrier for the first time ever. The S&P 500 closed at 1,706.87, up 1.25% for the session.
Financial names led the market on the strength of the continued flow of positive economic reports following Wednesday's state from the Federal Open Market Committee that included no change in Federal Reserve monetary policy.
The Labor Department said initial unemployment claims for the week ended July 27 came in at 326,000, falling 19,000 from the previous week, and coming in considerably below the consensus estimate of 345,000 new claims, among analysts polled by Thomson Reuters. The four-week moving average for new unemployment was 341,250, declining by 4,500.Continuing unemployment claims were down 52,000 for the week ended July 20, to $2.951 million, coming in below the consensus estimate of $2.994 million. Supporting the improving unemployment picture, outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas on Thursday said U.S. employers in July had announced plans to reduce their staffs by 37,701 workers, which was a decline of 4.2% from 39,372 layoffs planned during June. Markit said its final manufacturing purchasing managers index (PMI) for July "signaled the strongest manufacturing expansion in four months." The PMI rose to 53.7 during July from its eight-month low of 51.9 during June. The earlier "flash" estimate for the July PMI was 53.2. The financial services information provider said the higher PMI "suggested a solid improvement in overall manufacturing business conditions." The KBW Bank Index (I:BKX) rose 2% to close at 67.04, with all 24 index components ending higher. Shares of New York Community Bancorp (NYCB) jumped over 3% to close at $15.69. SunTrust (STI) of Atlanta was up nearly 3% to close at $35.75. Big banks seeing shares rise over 2% included Bank of America (BAC - Get Report), which closed at $14.95; BB&T (BBT), closing at $36.43; KeyCorp (KEY), at $12.59; PNC (PNC), at $77.65; and Regions Financial (RF), which closed at $10.26.