* Dow up after record close; on track for 6th straight gain
* Jobless claims fall more than expected in latest week
* Retailers rise; MasterCard data shows holiday sales growth
* Dow up 0.4 pct, S&P 500 up 0.3 pct, Nasdaq up 0.2 pct
By Ryan Vlastelica
NEW YORK, Dec 26 U.S. stocks advanced on
Thursday, putting the Dow on track for a sixth straight day of
gains, although trading was light following the Christmas
Thursday is the first full day of trading since Monday,
following an early close on Tuesday and Wednesday's Christmas
holiday. Volume has been anemic this week with many traders
away, a fact that could amplify market volatility.
Nevertheless, the stock market's recent upward bias
continued, with the Dow on track for its longest winning streak
since March. Both the Dow and the S&P 500 closed at record highs
"I don't get why we seem to have an eternally upward market,
but it looks like that's what we have," said Kim Forrest, senior
equity research analyst at Fort Pitt Capital Group in
Pittsburgh. "There's no reason to sell stocks, but also not much
reason to buy except for that fact that we continue to be poised
to go higher."
In a positive sign for economic growth, initial jobless
claims fell 42,000 in the latest week, dropping to 338,000 - the
lowest level in nearly a month. Analysts had expected 345,000
Retail stocks stayed on center stage as the holiday shopping
season drew to a close. Data published by MasterCard Advisors
SpendingPulse said sales between Nov. 1 and Dec. 24 rose 2.3
percent. The S&P retail index rose 0.6 percent, while
Urban Outfitters rose 2.4 percent to $37.65 as one of
the S&P 500's biggest percentage gainers.
The Dow Jones industrial average was up 71.86 points,
or 0.44 percent, at 16,429.41. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index
was up 5.60 points, or 0.31 percent, at 1,838.92. The
Nasdaq Composite Index was up 9.62 points, or 0.23
percent, at 4,165.04.
Both the Dow and the S&P 500 ended Tuesday's abbreviated
trading session at record highs. Those milestones marked the
fifth straight record closing high in a row for the Dow and the
third consecutive record closing high for the S&P 500.
The S&P 500 has soared almost 29 percent this year, largely
due to stimulus from the U.S. Federal Reserve. The index is on
track for its best year since 1997. The Dow is up 25.2 percent
in 2013 while the Nasdaq has jumped about 38 percent.
United Parcel Service on Tuesday said poor weather
and a high volume of holiday packages delayed the arrival of
Christmas presents around the world. Amazon.com Inc
offered compensation to affected customers with shipping refunds
and $20 gift cards.
Shares of UPS dipped 0.1 percent to $104.39 while Amazon
rose 0.5 percent to $401.21. FedEx Corp gained 0.8
percent to $143.14.
In another black eye for the retail industry, the hackers
who attacked Target Corp and compromised up to 40
million credit cards and debit cards also managed to steal
encrypted personal identification numbers, a senior payments
executive told Reuters. In spite of the news, the discount store
chain's shares rose 1.2 percent to $62.43.
Target's advance on Thursday followed a slide of 1.7 percent in
the stock's price over the past five sessions.
In the telecom sector, sources close to the matter told
Reuters that Japan's SoftBank Corp was in talks to buy
T-Mobile US Inc. Shares of T-Mobile US gained 0.3
percent to $32.30.