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Banks Rock for Third Straight Session: Financial Winners

Stocks in this article: USB CMA PNC FNFG KEY ZION I:BKX

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Bank stocks were strong again on Thursday, following several economic reports underscoring continued job-market improvement in the U.S.

The KBW Bank Index (I:BKX) rose 0.7% to close at 63.4 for its third-straight gain, with all but two of the index components rising for the session.

Big banks showing gains of over 1.5% included U.S. Bancorp (USB) of Minneapolis, which closed at $36.70; Comerica (CMA) of Dallas, closing at $41.69; and Zions Bancorporation (ZION) of Salt Lake City, with shares closing at $28.93.. Large players showing gains of over 1% included First Niagara Financial Group (FNFG) of Buffalo, N.Y., closing at $10.14; KeyCorp (KEY) of Cleveland, at $11.84; and PNC Financial Services Group (PNC) of Pittsburgh, at $73.35.

The banks led the overall market, with the broad indices ending with slight gains after Automatic Data Processing said the U.S. economy added 176,000 private sector jobs during August, on a seasonally adjusted basis, following a higher growth number of 198,000 in July. The July number was revised slightly downward from 200,000. The payroll processor's job-growth estimates are derived from its payroll numbers.

While the ADP number for August missed the consensus estimate of 200,000 among economists polled by Thomson Reuters, national unemployment claims came in lower than expected.

The Labor Department said first-time jobless claims for the week ended Aug. 31 declined to 323,000 from an upwardly revised 332,000 the previous week. Economists had expected new unemployment claims last week to come in at 330,000. The four-week average for unemployment claims was 328,500, declining from the previous week's average of 331,500, to its lowest level since October 2007.

The Institute for Supply Management said its non-manufacturing employment index was up 3.8% to 57%, indicating employment growth for the 13th consecutive month as service-sector employment continued growing at a faster rate than manufacturing employment. An index reading above 50% indicates expansion. The ISM non-manufacturing index rose to 58.6% in August from 56% in July. Economists had expected the non-manufacturing index to decline to 55%.

Next up is the official set of employment numbers for August, which the Labor Department will release on Friday. The national unemployment rate for July was 7.4%, declining from 7.6% the previous month. Economists expect no change in unemployment rate for August.

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