NEW YORK -- U.S. stocks leapt Thursday, with the Standard & Poor's 500 up for a sixth day and setting a record finish, after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said the Fed would remain accommodative.
The Fed chairman "didn't say anything new, but he did remind us we have a dual mandate, and neither one is close right now," said Art Hogan, market strategist at Lazard Capital Markets, referring to the Fed's employment and inflation targets.
"We're firmly entrenched in the belief that the Fed is going to taper at some point in time, but not if the economic data is getting worse," Hogan added.
Replying to a question following a speech in Cambridge, Mass., Bernanke said on Wednesday that "highly accommodative monetary policy for the foreseeable future is what's needed."
Bernanke's comments Wednesday followed the release of minutes from the central bank's last meeting, which had about half of the 19 members of the Federal Open Market Committee looking to cut the Fed's $85 billion in
monthly bond purchases by the end of the year. The record also had many Fed officials looking for further evidence of improvement in the labor market before opting to cut the Fed's quantitative-easing program.
Labor Department figures released Thursday showed first-time jobless claims rising last week by 16,000 to a two-month high of 360,000.
"The three-week moving average is still around 350,000, so we still have bumpy but steady improvement. Also, July has a boatload of seasonality in it," said Hogan of a month that includes the Fourth of July holiday and seasonal vehicle plant closures.
The Dow Jones industrial average rallied 169.26 points, or 1.1 percent, to 15,460.92, with the blue-chip index above its prior all-time finish of 15,409.39, hit on May 28.
Microsoft Corp. shares rose 2.8 percent on the technology giant's reorganization plan, outlined in an email by CEO Steve Ballmer to employees.
On Capitol Hill Thursday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren said a bipartisan group of lawmakers would introduce a bill to split commercial and investment banking, bringing back a provision established by the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act that was repealed in 1999. "The four biggest banks are now 30 percent larger than they were just five years ago, and they have continued to engage in dangerous, high-risk practices that could once again put our economy at risk," the Massachusetts Democrat said in a statement.
Two of those banks, Dow components JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Wells Fargo & Co. will report quarterly results Friday.
The S&P 500 index gained 22.4 points, or 1.4 percent, to 1,675.02, clearing the prior record close of 1,669.16 set on May 21.
Shares of Advanced Micro Devices Inc. leapt nearly 12 percent, leading the S&P 500's rise, after Canaccord Genuity Ltd. upgraded the manufacturer of PC processors.
Extending gains into a sixth session, its longest win streak since Nov. 26, 2012, the Nasdaq composite index climbed 57.55 points, or 1.6 percent, to 3,578.30, its loftiest level in nearly 13 years.
The dollar slid against the currencies of U.S. trading partners. Treasurys rose, with the yield on the 10-year note used in determining mortgages and other consumer loans falling to 2.57 percent.
Mortgage rates for fixed 30-year loans climbed to a two-year high, with the average rate rising to 4.51 percent, Freddie Mac said Thursday
"The biggest threat to the economy, both domestically and globally, is the price of oil, which remains stubbornly high," Lazard's Hogan said.
On the New York Mercantile Exchange, the cost of a barrel of oil fell from a 15-month high to $104.91 and an ounce of gold rose to $1,279.90.