NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Stronger-than-expected jobs data and a falling unemployment rate was enough impetus to push the Dow Jones Industrial Average well over the 17,000 threshold.

By the early market close at 1 p.m. ET, the Dow had soared 0.54% to 17,067.11, exceeding the psychologically important milestone it has been brushing against over the last few sessions. The S&P 500 was also popping, up 0.54% to 1,985.23, and the Nasdaq spiked 0.63% to 4,485.92.

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"It's another psychological barrier for the market," Wells Fargo Private Bank deputy CIO Darrell Cronk told TheStreet. "It's on the back of a jobs report this morning that shows that the economy continues to not just heal but improve."

The U.S. added 288,000 nonfarm payroll jobs in June, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, exceeding analysts' estimates for a 215,000 increase. May numbers were also revised up to 224,000 from a previously reported 217,000. The unemployment rate fell to 6.1%, its lowest level since September 2008 and below economists' expectations for the rate to remain steady at 6.3%.

The latest release paints a better-than-expected picture of the U.S. labor market. A day earlier, hopes were boosted after ADP data showed higher-than-expected payroll growth in the private employment sector, up 281,000 jobs in June from 180,000 in May and above economists' estimates of 205,000. The reading indicated companies had engaged in the most hiring in more than a year.

The U.S. international trade gap narrowed to $44.4 billion from $47.2 billion a month earlier. Economists had expected $45 billion.

Underlying market fundamentals have pushed benchmark indices to new heights this week, with a bounty of strong data including stronger-than-expected housing data, Chinese manufacturing recording expansion for the first time this year and payrolls climbing at a steeper rate than forecast. Though it's been a shortened-holiday week, the Dow has added 0.74%, the S&P 0.7%, and the Nasdaq 1.36% since Monday.

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Markets were little moved over Wednesday's session as Wall Street digested data on payrolls and factory orders

European markets closed higher following the European Central Bank's monetary policy meeting on Thursday. ECB president Mario Draghi noted the organization is prepared to implement "unconventional measures" if the eurozone's inflationary rate remains lower than its 2% target. Earlier, Markit's Eurozone PMI measure dropped to 52.8 in June from 53.5 in May, marking a six-month low.

Lululemon  (LULU) shares added 2.6% after The Wall Street Journal reported the yogawear company is reportedly considering a buyout.

American Apparel  (APP) gained 5.2% to 87.3 cents after ousted CEO Dov Charney surrendered his stake and voting rights to firm Standard General. The American Apparel board had refused to negotiate with Charney in his attempts to regain control, but have showed willingness to speak with Standard General.

PetSmart (PETM) is surging 12.5% to $67.30 after Jana Partners disclosed a 9.9% stake. The hedge fund notes it may encourage strategic moves such as a potential sale. 

NQ Mobile  (NQ) plummeted 32.3% to $4.58 after independent auditor Pricewaterhouse Coopers said it would need to expand the scope of its 2013 audit. The company had been accused of accounting fraud last year.  

Rite Aid (RAD) added 5.6% to $7.57 after reporting an increase in same-store sales in June. The third-largest U.S. drugstore chain noted a 3.9% rise in June with a 5.4% increase in same-store sales in its pharmacy section. 

Paramount Group, one of the largest private real estate owners in the U.S., has hired Bank of America  (BAC) to discuss strategic moves, including a possible IPO, reports Reuters. The float could value the company as high as $15 billion.

U.S. markets closed at 1 p.m. EDT Thursday ahead of the Independence Day holiday Friday. Markets will remain closed for the public holiday and resume as normal Monday.

--Written by Keris Alison Lahiff in New York.

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