NEW YORK -- U.S. stocks rose, finishing the biggest monthly gain since February, amid improving economic data and speculation central banks will continue to spur growth.
The Standard & Poor's 500 Index added 0.3 percent to a record 2,003.37 as of 4 p.m. in New York on Friday. The index jumped 3.8 percent this month, the best August performance since 2000.
Economic reports showed consumer confidence unexpectedly rose in August, while consumer spending dropped in July for the first time in six months. Euro-area inflation slowed this month to the weakest rate since 2009, increasing pressure on the European Cen
tral Bank to add stimulus. American equity markets will be closed on Sept. 1 for the Labor Day holiday.
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With the U.S. headed into the Labor Day holiday weekend, the stock market has been experiencing the slowest trading in at least six years. Volume has been below 5 billion shares in each of the past eight days, the longest stretch in data compiled by Bloomberg going back to 2008.
"Investors' lack of exposure to equities is still what drives the market higher, along with valuations which aren't stretched," Paul Atkinson, head of North American equities at Aberdeen Asset Management in Philadelphia, said in a phone interview. The firm oversees $551.4 billion.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 18.88 points, or 0.1 percent, to 17,098.45. The Nasdaq Composite Index gained 0.5 percent to 4,580.27.
U.S. household purchases decreased 0.1 percent after increasing 0.4 percent in June, Commerce Department figures showed. None of the 79 economists in a Bloomberg survey projected a decrease. Incomes climbed 0.2 percent, the smallest monthly advance this year.
Consumer confidence unexpectedly rose in August, showing a brightening in Americans' moods as the labor market gains traction. The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan final sentiment index rose to 82.5 from 81.8 in July. The median projection in a Bloomberg survey of economists called for 80.
"You look through the data we've gotten this week, it's strong, I think what the stock market's getting is that this lift is starting to help the consumer," John Canally, chief economic strategist at Boston-based LPL Financial, said via phone.
In Europe, consumer prices rose 0.3 percent in August from a year earlier after a 0.4 percent increase in July, the statistics office in Luxembourg said. Unemployment remained at 11.5 percent in July, Eurostat said in a separate report. ECB President Mario Draghi said in a speech at a conference in Jackson Hole, Wyo., that inflation expectations have deteriorated in the euro area and signaled policy makers are ready to add fresh stimulus.
"The ECB meeting is next week and Draghi kind of precommitted at Jackson Hole when he started talking about inflation being below their desired range," Paul Zemsky, the New York-based head of multi-asset strategies at Voya Investment Management, which oversees $213 billion, said by phone. "If they don't do something different, global markets will be disappointed."
Avago Technologies, a semiconductor-device supplier, climbed 7.5 percent to $82.09 for the biggest gain in the S&P 500 after it reported earnings that topped estimates.
Pacific Sunwear of California, a clothing retailer, slid 9.6 percent to $2.08 after projecting losses in the third quarter that were deeper than analysts' estimated.
Veeva Systems, the provider of cloud-based business services, jumped 20 percent to $29.97. It boosted its year-end earnings prediction and reported second-quarter earnings that beat estimates.
Nabors Industries, the oil, gas and geothermal land drilling operator, gained 3.6 percent to $27.21, the most in two months. A Bloomberg Industries report on Thursday showed it stand to benefit from exposure to Argentina shale development.
With assistance from Jonathan Morgan in Frankfurt, Germany, and Lu Wang in New York