Wall Street ends up on surprising retailers' sales

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. stocks rose on Thursday, snapping a four-day losing streak, after stronger-than-expected retail sales data eased concerns about the economy before Friday’s important jobs data.

Traders work on the options trading floor at the New York Stock Exchange, May 26, 2009. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

After sharp declines this week, the broad S&P 500 index finished above 1,000 as retailers’ August sales were complemented by a survey showing improvement in the U.S. services sector.

Financials and retail stocks were among the day's leaders, with Bank of America BAC.N up 3.5 percent to $16.84, and Citigroup C.N up 4.8 percent at $4.77. The S&P financial sector index .GSPF was up 2.3 percent.

“It’s the belief the economy is in the recovery stage. What’s rallying today are things associated with economic growth,” said Owen Fitzpatrick, head of U.S. Equity Group, Deutsche Bank Private Wealth Management.

“Granted, we’re due for a pause, but the reality is we are in an economic recovery.”

The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI was up 63.94 points, or 0.69 percent, at 9,344.61. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index .SPX was up 8.49 points, or 0.85 percent, at 1,003.24. The Nasdaq Composite Index .IXIC was up 16.13 points, or 0.82 percent, at 1,983.20.

The S&P is up about 48 percent from its 12-year closing low on March 9.

The Labor Department is due to release its non-farm payrolls figures on Friday morning, which should shed light on the outlook for the economic recovery.

The payrolls report, accompanied by the U.S. unemployment rate for August, will come before a long Labor Day holiday weekend. U.S. financial markets will be closed on Monday.

Among retailers posting higher-than-expected sales in August were Costco Wholesale Corp COST.O and Target Corp TGT.N.

Costco's shares, which were upgraded by JPMorgan, climbed 8.6 percent to $55, while Target gained 1.7 percent to $47.07. The S&P retail index .RLX rose 2.03 percent.

Gold prices climbed to their highest since late February, with spot gold hitting a peak of $997.20 an ounce before paring gains to $992.25 at the end of the day in New York. Mining company shares rose, with Newmont Mining Corp NEM.N up 4.5 percent to $45.77 and Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc FCX.N 4.34 percent higher at $64.48.

The PHLX Gold/Silver index .XAU gained 4.67 percent.

On the downside, credit-rating agency Moody's Corp MCO.N and McGraw-Hill Cos MHP.N, the parent of credit-ratings firm Standard & Poor's, slid after a federal judge ruled the two companies must defend fraud charges in a class-action lawsuit.

McGraw-Hill shares dropped 10.2 percent to $29.01 while Moody’s shed 7.1 percent to $24.26.

In Friday’s non-farm payrolls report, economists polled by Reuters forecast a loss of 225,000 jobs for August.

Volume was light on the New York Stock Exchange, with 1.16 billion shares changing hands, below last year’s estimated daily average of 1.49 billion.

On the Nasdaq, about 1.86 billion shares traded, also below last year’s daily average of 2.28 billion.

Advancing stocks outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a ratio of 23 to 6. On the Nasdaq, about 17 stocks rose for every eight that fell.

Reporting by Angela Moon, Editing by Kenneth Barry