Retailers rebound to boost S&P, Nasdaq to record highs

(Reuters) – U.S. stocks rose on Thursday, with the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite scaling new highs, buoyed by strong earnings reports from the embattled retailer sector.

Sentiment also got a boost after the minutes of the Federal Reserve’s latest meeting showed policymakers expected the economy to pick up momentum and an interest rate hike would come sooner rather than later.

While gains were broad based, the consumer discretionary index’s (.SPLRCD) 1.03 percent surge was easily the highest among the 11 major S&P sectors.

Best Buy (BBY.N) surged as much as 19.4 percent to a record high of $60.24, making it the top gainer on the S&P, as its comparable sales unexpectedly rose last quarter.

Tommy Hilfiger-owner PVH (PVH.N) was second-biggest S&P gainer with a 7 percent jump to a near 6-month high on strong results. Sears (SHLD.O) was up about 14 percent after posting its first quarterly profit in nearly two years.

Analysts also said the S&P 500 being able to break through and stay above the 2,400 level for the third straight session has also provided technical support.

“Breaking through 2,400 on the S&P 500 is a bit of a technical help, so you’re getting the benefit of people coming into the market since that level was such a staunch resistance for so long,” said Robert Pavlik, chief market strategist at Boston Private Wealth in New York.

At 12:42 p.m. ET the Dow Jones Industrial Average (.DJI) was up 73.14 points, or 0.35 percent, at 21,085.56.

The S&P 500 (.SPX) was up 11.66 points, or 0.484946 percent, at 2,416.05, easing off from a high of 2,417.58.

The Nasdaq Composite (.IXIC) was up 44.60 points, or 0.72 percent, at 6,207.62. The index hit an all-time high of 6,209.05.

Amazon (AMZN.O), up 1.8 percent, gave the biggest boost to the S&P and Nasdaq. The stock hit a record of $999, on the brink of breaking through $1,000 for the first time ever.

Only two S&P indexes in the red, led by the energy (.SPNY) sector. The index sank 1.29 percent along with crude oil prices after the OPEC agreed to extend output cuts, but not by as much as investors had hoped for. [O/R]

Minutes of the Fed’s latest meeting, released on Wednesday afternoon, showed that while policymakers backed a rate hike, they also agreed to hold off until it was clear a recent slowdown in the economy was temporary.

Fed officials also proposed a plan to wind down its $4.5 trillion of debt securities, including a limit on how much would be allowed to fall off the balance sheet each month.

“The Fed reducing the size of their balance sheet over a gradual period rather than doing that all at one time or in larger chunks is a positive,” said Pavlik.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by 1,504 to 1,331. On the Nasdaq, 1,482 issues rose and 1,260 fell.

The S&P 500 index showed 84 new 52-week highs and nine new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 118 new highs and 44 new lows.