* Initial jobless claims drop 14,000 from previous week
* Existing home sales hit 10-month high
* Investors await Yellen speech from Jackson Hole conference
* Dow up 0.4 pct; S&P 500 up 0.3 pct; Nasdaq up 0.1 pct
(Updates to close)
By Akane Otani
NEW YORK, Aug 21 U.S. stocks ended higher on
Thursday, with the S&P 500 at a record after a flurry of
positive economic data, as investors hoped for signs from an
annual meeting of central bankers that interest-rate hikes are
The S&P 500 broke two records during Thursday's session,
climbing past its previous intraday all-time high of 1,991.39
and ending above its previous record close of 1,987.98. Both had
been set on July 24. Investors are anticipating that the
benchmark index will touch the 2,000 level, which it has yet to
Market participants refrained from making big bets before
Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen's speech on Friday at a
policymakers' meeting in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, which could
provide clues on the timing of an interest-rate hike.
"The real question will be, with the bullish economic data,
will Yellen's comment in Jackson Hole remain as dovish as the
market hopes it will be?" said Lawrence Glazer, managing partner
at Mayflower Advisors in Boston.
Policymakers referred to as doves are viewed as being
supportive of interest rates remaining low.
Some investors also remained skeptical of whether the stock
market's recent gains are sustainable, pointing to light trading
"We're seeing a few people jump into the market right now
because things look A-OK right now. But it's a slow period ...
before Labor Day, and so it isn't taking much to move the market
up," said Jeff Duncan, president of Duncan Financial Management
in Sunset Hills, Missouri.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 60.36 points,
or 0.36 percent, to 17,039.49. The S&P 500 gained 5.86
points, or 0.29 percent, to end at 1,992.37. The Nasdaq
Composite added 5.62 points, or 0.12 percent, to
The benchmark S&P 500's intraday record high was 1,994.76.
U.S. economic data gave stocks a boost. Existing home sales
jumped to a 10-month high and initial jobless claims dropped
sharply, painting a picture of an economy that is slowly
Bank of America Corp shares jumped 4.1 percent to
$16.16 after the company reached a record $16.65 billion
settlement with the U.S. government related to troubled
Fund managers and analysts believe the settlement will let
Bank of America's management focus on running the company and
moving it forward. The stock's rally helped push the S&P 500
financial sector index up during the day to 312.45, its
highest level since June 2008.
Technology shares, a recent area of strength, advanced, with
the S&P technology index adding 0.5 percent.
Hewlett-Packard Co shares gained 5.4 percent to $37
a day after the computing company posted a surprising increase
in quarterly revenue. Shares of eBay jumped 4.7 percent
to $55.89 on a report that the company was mulling a spinoff of
its PayPal unit as soon as next year.
Going against the day's upbeat trend was Sears Holdings
, which tumbled 7.2 percent to $33.38. The stock slid
after the owner of Sears department stores and the Kmart
discount chain reported its ninth straight quarterly loss. Sears
also said it might close more stores than planned this year.
About 4.5 billion shares traded on all U.S. platforms,
according to BATS exchange data, compared with the five-day
average of 5.1 billion.
(Editing by Bernadette Baum, Nick Zieminski, Megan Davies and