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New York - US stocks rose at the open on Thursday in the wake of upbeat labour market data and as Macy's lifted the bar further for retailers after a stellar holiday season.
The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits last week fell slightly more than expected to a seasonally adjusted 330,000, pointing to an economy that was continuing to gain steam.
“The market is comfortable with that number. It doesn't suggest the Fed will stop or accelerate its taper plan. Hanging here in the 320,000 to 340,000 zone is good,” said Peter Jankovskis, co-chief investment officer at OakBrook Investments in Lisle, Illinois.
The US central bank said last month it would begin trimming its stimulative monthly bond purchases, and minutes from the Fed's most recent meeting showed its top officials were keen to steer a delicate path and many of them stressed that future decisions were not set in stone.
Janet Yellen, set to take over as head of the Federal Reserve next month, was “hopeful” that US economic growth will accelerate in 2014 to 3 percent or more and persistently low inflation will move up toward the central bank's target of about 2 percent, according to a Time magazine interview released Thursday.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 34.58 points or 0.21 percent, to 16,497.32, the S&P 500 gained 4.16 points or 0.23 percent, to 1,841.65 and the Nasdaq Composite added 13.23 points or 0.32 percent, to 4,178.842.
Macy's shares jumped 7 percent to $55.50 a day after the department store operator reported strong holiday sales and gave a preliminary forecast for 2014 that suggests it will continue to outpace its rivals.
“The theme of a better economy seems to resonate with investors and they continue to look for companies that will do well in a better economy,” said Rick Meckler, president of LibertyView Capital Management in Jersey City, New Jersey.
Still, many US retailers had to ramp up promotions as shoppers continued to watch their spending during the holiday season, hitting profits at several chains.
Family Dollar reported a weaker quarterly profit as it discounted more than it had planned to win holiday shoppers, sending its shares down 5.3 percent to $62.83.
Bed Bath & Beyond fell 12.3 percent to $69.86 a day after lowering its fourth quarter and full-year earnings estimates.
T-Mobile US on Wednesday reported a fourth-quarter boost in customer growth and offered to pay customers to switch from rival services, escalating already intense competition in the US wireless market.
Shares rose 0.5 percent to $33.44.
Healthcare sector stocks continued to shine. US drugs wholesaler McKesson added 3.5 percent to $175.80 after it raised its offer for German peer Celesio, persuading a hedge fund that had been blocking the multi-billion dollar deal to agree to sell some of its shares.
Intercept Pharmaceuticals Inc soared more than 250 percent to $254.89 after it said an analysis by an independent safety committee showed its liver disease drug met the main goal of a mid-stage trial. - Reuters