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Wall Street hits new high after jobless claims dip

Wall Street stocks rose to fresh 2009 highs Thursday after the release of a new government report revealed a drop in fresh claims for jobless benefits to the lowest level since September 2008.

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AFP - Wall Street stocks rose to fresh 2009 highs Thursday after data showing new US claims for jobless benefits dropped to a 15-month low sparked a "Santa Claus rally."

The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 54.11 points (0.52 percent) to 10,520.55 in final trades in an abbreviated Christmas Eve session as the blue chip Dow index ended on positive territory for the fifth consecutive day.

The technology-rich Nasdaq composite rose 16.05 points (0.71 percent) to 2,285.69 while the broad-market Standard & Poor's 500 index added 5.88 points (0.52 percent) to a provisional close of 1,126.47.

Fresh government data showing an improvement in the labor market and a rise in orders for US manufactured durable goods boosted a Santa rally that began early this week. There will be no trading on Christmas Friday.

The market was lifted by a government report that new US claims for jobless benefits in the week ending December 19 dropped to 452,000 from the previous week's unrevised figure of 480,000, the lowest level since September 2008.

The Commerce Department reported separately that orders for manufactured durable goods edged up 0.2 percent in November, led by a strong rise in demand for computers and electronics products.

"The initial claims and durable goods orders reports have provided more incentive to keep Santa parked on Wall Street. Both reports provided encouraging news," said Patrick O'Hare of Briefing.com.

O'Hare said Thursday marks the official start to the Santa Claus rally period, which some say encompasses the last five trading days of the year and the first two trading days of the new year.

A positive bias is typically associated with this period, O'Hare said.

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