NEW YORK (REUTERS) - The Dow industrials closed above 16,000 for the first time on Thursday as stocks rebounded from three days of weakness, after economic data pointed to a slowly improving labor market and subdued inflation.
Financial shares led the market to its first day of gains after three sessions of losses. Although investors remain unsure about the timing of the Federal Reserve's scaling back of its US$85 billion per month in bond buying, some say the market will weather the eventual pullback in that stimulus.
"I think the stock market will be on a rising track for the rest of the year," said Margie Patel, senior portfolio manager at Wells Capital Management, at the Reuters Global Investment Summit on Thursday.
"Everyone would like to see a correction" so they can add to positions, she said, adding that equities will be the strongest asset class in 2014, as well. Investors largely believe markets are due to pull back, even though the rally may continue, thanks to the Fed.
The US central bank has said repeatedly that it will not withdraw support until the economy can stand on its own. A combination of a growing economy and Fed support gives investors a good reason to buy stocks, Steven Einhorn, vice chairman of Omega Advisors, told the Summit.
There is "a whole host of things the Fed can do to mitigate and moderate the sting" of a pullback in bond buying, Mr Einhorn said. That includes more forward guidance for markets, which the members of the Federal Open Market Committee discussed during their most recent meeting, minutes released on Wednesday showed. The annual inflation rate is at 1 per cent, below the Fed's target of 2 per cent.
James Bullard, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis and a voting member of the FOMC, said on Thursday that the inflation data gives the central bank some leeway to keep the current accommodative policy in place.
"What we need to do is continue with the program for now as we have, but if an inflation problem starts to develop, we have to be willing to move to arrest that problem," Mr Bullard told a University of Arkansas event. "At that point, I'd put on my inflation hawk hat and spring into action."
Expectations that the Fed could start cutting stimulus - but without raising interest rates - have helped to widen the spread between long- and short-run debt. That benefits banks, which make money borrowing at short rates and lending at longer rates.
Bank of America Inc shares jumped 3 per cent to close at US$15.59.
The Dow Jones industrial average shot up 109.17 points, or 0.69 per cent, to close at a record 16,009.99. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index gained 14.48 points, or 0.81 per cent, to finish at 1,795.85. The Nasdaq Composite Index climbed 47.89 points, or 1.22 per cent, to end at 3,969.16.
The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell more than expected last week, while producer prices fell for a second straight month in October, indicating inflation pressures remain muted.
"The (new claims) number we got this morning is very, very robust ... We've been handed a few one-two punches - the government shutdown, the payroll tax increase - but guess what, like Elton John, the economy is still standing," said Anthony Chan, chief economist at Chase Private Client.
Target shares fell 3.5 per cent to US$64.19 after comparable sales rose less than expected in the third quarter and it lowered its full-year profit forecast.
But the Morgan Stanley retail index rose 0.5 per cent, buoyed by a 7.6 per cent climb in Williams-Sonoma Inc to US$59.74. The upscale home products retailer reported quarterly results above estimates and said it was well-positioned for the holiday season.