* Retail sales seen strong in September
* Fed minutes to be released at 2 p.m. EDT (1800 GMT
* Dow up 0.6 pct, S&P up up 0.6 pct, Nasdaq up 0.2 pct
By Edward Krudy
NEW YORK, Oct 4 The S&P 500 rose for a fourth
session on Thursday after a report suggested improvement in the
labor market ahead of Friday's closely watched monthly payrolls
The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment
benefits rose only slightly last week after a big drop the week
before, keeping in place a trend that indicated a mild
improvement in the labor market.
"The claims data was actually OK, with two weeks in a row
now below 370,000, after two weeks prior above 380,000," said
Peter Boockvar, equity strategist and portfolio manager at
Miller Tabak in New York. "We await obviously tomorrow's
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits rose 4,000 to
a seasonally adjusted 367,000, the Labor Department said, below
economists' expectations for an increase t o 370,000.
Coal companies' stocks rallied following Republican
presidential nominee Mitt Romney's support of the coal industry
during his televised debate with President Barack Obama on
"By the way, I like coal," Romney said in the debate.
At midday on Thursday, shares of Arch Coal rose 7.1
percent to $6.64 and shares of Alpha Natural Resources
gained 5.2 percent to $6.63.
The Dow Jones industrial average climbed 79.33
points, or 0.59 percent, to 13,573.94. The Standard & Poor's 500
Index rose 8.34 points, or 0.57 percent, to 1,459.33. The
Nasdaq Composite Index gained 6.10 points, or 0.19
percent, to 3,141.40.
Financial shares led the market higher after Draghi said the
ECB was ready to buy the bonds of euro-zone countries that ask
for it, leaving the door open to a widely expected bailout of
Spain. The S&P's financial index gained 1.3 percent.
Draghi, speaking at a regular monthly news conference, also
said "significant progress" had been made in Spain to bring
order to its finances, although more was needed.
The S&P 500 has climbed 16 percent so far this year. That
strong gain, combined with weak global economic data and
questions of whether Spain's bailout will come to pass, have
prompted some investors to say the rally is starting to look
"We've enjoyed this surge in the U.S. based on monetary
policy, but at some point, we're going to need something a
little more tangible to sink our teeth into to sustain higher
equity prices," said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer of
Harris Private Bank in Chicago.
The weaker dollar lifted the prices of crude and basic
metals, which helped buoy shares in the energy and materials
sectors. An S&P index of energy shares rose 0.8 percent,
while an S&P index of materials shares gained 1.3
Shares of Dow component Hewlett-Packard fell 0.2
percent to $14.88, adding to Wednesday's 13 percent drop after
Chief Executive Meg Whitman warned of an unexpectedly steep
earnings slide in 2013.
Data showed U.S. retailers' September sales looked solid as
shoppers wrapped up back-to-school buying and put the brakes on
more big spending before the holiday season.
Costco Wholesale shares rose 1.6 percent to $101.23
after it reported a better-than-expected 6 percent rise in
September sales at stores open at least a year.
On investors' watch list this afternoon: The Federal Reserve
is expected to release the minutes from the Sept. 12-13 meeting
of its policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee at 2 p.m.
EDT (1800 GMT).