NEW YORK -- U.S. stocks rallied Thursday, with the Nasdaq composite index closing at a record, as the Federal Reserve signaled it will continue to support the economy even as growth picks up.
Health-care and consumer shares in the Standard & Poor's 500 index gained more than 1.1 percent. The Nasdaq Biotechnology Index jumped to an all-time high. Harley-Davidson climbed 4.2 percent amid positive analyst comments and an upgrade. Oracle fell 4.8 percent as quarterly revenue and profit missed analysts' forecasts.
The Nasdaq climbed 1.3 percent to 5,132.95, topping its record in May. The S&P 500 index added 1 percent to 2,121.24, rising for a third straight day. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 180.10 points, or 1 percent, to 18,115.84. The Russell 2000 Index advanced 1.3 percent to an all-time high. About 6.8 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges, 8.3 percent above the three-month average.
"It's a pretty rosy scenario here," said Tom Mangan, who helps oversee about $6.4 billion as money manager at James Investment Research in Xenia, Ohio. "The market has discounted a lot of bad things and in fact there are some really good things happening. As long as the Fed is dragging their feet in terms of going back to what might be called a normal level of liquidity, then they are providing momentum for the economy."
Three rounds of Fed bond purchases and borrowing costs near zero have propelled the S&P 500 up by more than 200 percent during the six-year bull market. The index is down 0.5 percent from an all-time high reached in May.
While the median forecast of Fed policy makers published Wednesday still calls for two interest-rate increases by year- end, more officials say just one would be enough in 2015. Still more advocate a go-slow approach to further tightening in 2016. Yellen on
Wednesday stressed the Fed has no set course for raising rates, and will continue to evaluate incoming data to decide when to move.
Equity futures earlier extended gains after a report showed the cost of living in the United States excluding food and fuel rose less than forecast in May, a sign inflation may take time to meet the Fed's goal. The so-called core measure increased 0.1 percent, the smallest gain this year. The overall consumer-price index advanced 0.4 percent, as fuel costs rebounded.
A separate report showed fewer Americans than forecast filed for unemployment benefits last week, a sign labor market momentum continues to strengthen. Another gauge indicated manufacturing activity in the Philadelphia region rose more than forecast this month.
Euro-area finance ministers failed to reach a deal on Greece after meetings in Luxembourg, European Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis said. Euro-area leaders will hold an emergency summit Monday in Brussels with Greece set to reach the end of its bailout agreement without receiving more aid.
The Chicago Board Options Exchange volatility index fell 9 percent Thursday to 13.19. The gauge dropped for a third day on its way to the first weekly decline in three weeks. All 10 of the S&P 500's main industries rallied, with health-care companies and utilities rising the most.
Amgen, Celgene and Biogen each gained more than 2.7 percent to pace the health-care rally. The Nasdaq biotech index jumped 2.9 percent, the most since Jan. 16, to a record. BioMarin Pharmaceutical soared 12 percent to an all-time high after the company said its experimental drug for dwarfism helped children in a mid-stage trial. Johnson & Johnson rose 1.7 percent, the most in six weeks.
Consumer staples companies climbed for a third day amid the dollar's slump. Altria Group Inc., Philip Morris International and Kraft Foods Group all increased more than 1.5 percent. The weaker U.S. currency makes their products more competitive abroad, and can help boost revenue when overseas sales are converted back into dollars.
"We're likely to see a bit of rotation on the equity market," said Robert Sinche, a strategist at Amherst Pierpont Securities in Stamford, Conn. "Equities that were sold because of their foreign exposure may begin to reverse a little bit as we see signs of the dollar's upward momentum breaking."
Harley-Davidson added 4.2 percent, the most since October, to reach a two-month high. Shares rose 3.6 percent Wednesday as the company boosted its stock-buyback plan. UBS o0n Thursday raised its rating on the shares to buy from neutral.
Ralph Lauren rose 3.6 percent, its biggest gain since November, after Credit Suisse reiterated its outperform rating, saying the company's progress on its restructuring initiatives is "encouraging." Amazon.com Inc. increased 2.7 percent to an eight-week high.
General Motors increased 1.1 percent, the most in three weeks. Fitch raised the automaker's credit rating to investment grade.
Semiconductors climbed for a fourth day to lead the technology group. Microchip Technology and Texas Instruments added more than 1.7 percent, while Intel Corp. increased 1.4 percent.
Among other tech shares, Juniper Networks rose 1.7 percent after Wedbush Securities raised the shares to outperform from neutral. Microsoft advanced 1.6 percent, up for a third day after going 21 sessions without back-to-back gains.
Energy shares in the benchmark had the smallest advance amid mixed trading. Phillips 66 and Marathon Petroleum added more than 1.2 percent, while Ensco, Noble and Transocean lost at least 2.9 percent. Oil States International fell 5.5 percent, the most since January, after trimming its second-quarter sales forecasts, citing a downturn in its well site services segment.
Jabil Circuit lost 7.4 percent, the most in 18 months, as its fiscal fourth-quarter forecast trailed analysts' estimates.
Rite Aid dropped 3.6 percent after the drugstore chain said earnings for the fiscal year would be lower than an earlier forecast, reflecting the results of an acquisition.