Stock market climbs after economic data

U.S. stock-market indexes rose modestly Thursday, supported by a pair of economic reports that highlighted continued improvement in the economy.

Low levels of first-time jobless claims suggest the labor market remains robust, while consumer spending—the biggest driver of the economy—picked up in July thanks to higher income of consumers and low inflation.

The S&P 500

SPX, +0.48%

 was up by about 10 points, or 0.4%, to 2,467, with nearly all 11 main sectors trading higher. Materials and health-care stocks were leading the gains, up about 0.7%. The benchmark index is on track to end the month marginally lower, which would be its first monthly decline since March.

The Nasdaq Composite

COMP, +0.56%

advanced 34 points, or 0.5%, to 6,402, helped by solid gains in biotechnology shares. The iShares Nasdaq Biotech ETF

IBB, +1.00%

 was up 0.9%.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average

DJIA, +0.39%

added 75 points, or 0.3%, to 21,967, with nearly all 30 blue-chip companies trading higher. Nike, Inc.

NKE, +0.87%

Pfizer Inc.

PFE, +1.33%

 and Merck & Co., Inc.

MRK, +1.03%

 were leading the gains, up about 0.7%.

Both the Nasdaq and Dow industrials are looking at modest monthly gains, while the S&P 500 is paring its loss, down 0.1% on the month.

For the year, the blue-chip barometer is up 11%, while the S&P has climbed 10%, and the tech-heavy Nasdaq has surged 18%.

Some analysts said the market has been supported by earnings and positive economic environment over the past several months.

“In an environment where the economy and earnings continue to grow, markets will also climb. Geopolitics shake up markets from time to time, but usually do not have long-lasting impact,” said Arian Vojdani, investment strategist at MV Financial.

Equities and other assets viewed as relatively risky have stabilized after a late-August slump thanks in part to that better-than-expected U.S. data and a stronger-than-anticipated reading on Chinese manufacturing out Thursday, according to Richard Perry, a Hantec Markets analyst.

Data deluge: Consumer spending rose 0.3% last month, helped by higher incomes and low inflation. The pace of inflation, meanwhile, was little changed in July, up 0.1%.

Initial jobless claims in the period running from Aug. 20 to Aug. 26 rose by 1,000 to 236,000, which is still close to a postrecession low, pointing to another solid monthly employment report near the end of summer. Official jobs report will be released Friday at 8:30 a.m. Eastern.

Separately, Chicago PMI held steady at 58.9 in August.

See: August jobs data is crucial test for U.S. dollar

Check out: MarketWatch’s Economic Calendar

Other markets: U.S. oil prices

CLV7, +1.39%

 rose and gasoline futures

RBU7, +10.26%

 jumped above $2 a gallon on Thursday, as flooding due to tropical storm Harvey continued to wreak havoc on refineries along the Gulf Coast.

European stocks

SXXP, +0.90%

advanced but were headed for another monthly drop, while Asian markets finished mostly higher. The ICE U.S. Dollar Index

DXY, +0.22%

was gaining, while gold futures

GCZ7, +0.27%

 were lower.

Individual movers: Retailer Dollar General Corp.

DG, -8.03%

 and food giantCampbell Soup Co.

CPB, -5.00%

 fell by 6.7% and 4.6%, respectively, after posting disappointing earnings results.

Software company Box Inc.

BOX, -1.02%

 shed 2% in the wake of its quarterly results late Wednesday.

Shares in Walt Disney Co.

DIS, -0.42%

 shares were slightly lower following news that it is preparing significant budget cuts at its Disney/ABC Television Group that will include staff reductions and restructuring efforts.

Arkema SA

AKE, -2.14%

 traded 1.9% lower in Paris after the French industrial chemicals manufacturer said it has been notified about two explosions and black smoke coming from its plant in Crosby, Texas, after flooding due to tropical storm Harvey. Arkema also trades in the U.S. via American depositary receipts

ARKAY, +0.90%

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