U.S. Stocks Keep Rising as S&P 500 Nears Record High

Telephones are stationed on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., on Monday, Feb. 25, 2013. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index rebounded after last week's slump amid bets on Japan stimulus and as polls showed Pier Luigi Bersani, who campaigned to maintain budget rigor, will win ItalyÕs election. Photographer: Scott Eells/Bloomberg via Getty Images
(Scott Eells/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
By MATTHEW CRAFT

NEW YORK -- Encouraging news from the job market pushed the stock market up early Thursday, putting the Standard & Poor's 500 index near its all-time high.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose seven points to 1,561 -- just four points away from the record high it reached in October 2007 -- before retreating marginally after 10 a.m.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 57 points to 14,513, putting the average of 30 big companies on course for 10 straight days of gains. The last time that happened was November 1996. Verizon Communications led the Dow higher, rising more than 1 percent.

Fewer Americans sought unemployment benefits last week, dropping the average number of weekly applications to 332,000, according to the Labor Department. That's a five-year low. Economists had expected weekly jobless claims to rise.

The four-week average, a more stable measure, fell to the lowest since March 2008, four months after the economy slid into the Great Recession.

In other trading, the Nasdaq composite rose 14 points to 3,258.

The gains were broad in early trading, though slight. Of the ten industries in the S&P 500, utilities and consumer-discretionary stocks were the only groups to fall.

In the Treasury market, the yield on the 10-year note rose to 2.05 percent from 2.02 percent late Wednesday. Better economic news tends to draw traders out of the Treasury market, and when bond prices drop, yields rise.

Among other stocks making big moves:

• Coldwater Creek (CWTR) jumped 12 percent after the retailer of women's clothing posted a loss late Wednesday that was smaller than analysts had expected. Its stock rose 39 cents to $3.60.

• Men's Wearhouse (MW) soared 14 percent after the clothing company said Wednesday that its quarterly loss shrank, helped by better sales. Men's Wearhouse gained $4.20 to $33.26.

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