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Benchmarks ended their losing streak on Thursday following stronger-than-expected reports on the home front. The Dow Jones and the S&P 500 finished in the green for the first time this week. In recent days, the market has been affected over concerns on about the Federal Reserve’s bond buying program. But encouraging economic reports released yesterday boosted investor sentiment. The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits declined in the previous week. All ten sectors of the S&P 500 industry groups finished higher with the financial sector and the consumer discretionary sector gaining the most.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) gained 1.2% to close the day at 15,176.08. The S&P 500 climbed 1.5% to finish yesterday’s trading session at 1,636.36. The tech-laden Nasdaq Composite Index inched up 1.3% to end at 3,445.36. The fear-gauge CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) tumbled 11.7% to settle at 16.41. Consolidated volumes on the New York Stock Exchange, American Stock Exchange and Nasdaq were roughly 6.3 billion shares, slightly lower than the 2013’s average of 6.38 billion shares. Advancing stocks outnumbered the decliners. For the 81% that advanced, only 18% declined.

On Thursday, stocks rallied after back-to-back losses. Benchmarks had slumped sharply on Wednesday but moved up on Thursday. Though they have enjoyed a decent rally this year, markets have lost their way following Bernanke’s testimony on May 22 over the Fed’s bond buying program. Investor concerns about the Fed’s bond buying program increased after the Bank of Japan refrained from taking any additional measures in its latest policy meeting. This prompted a selloff in the Japanese market. A clear picture about the future of the Federal Reserve’s bond buying program may emerge only next week, when the central bank issues its latest policy statement.

Meanwhile, initial claims for the week ending June 8, declined 12,000 to 334,000 from the prior week’s unrevised figure of 346,000. The decline in initial claims was above the consensus estimate. The four week moving average dropped 7,250 to 345,250 from the previous week unrevised figure of 352,500. In the previous week the U.S Department of Labor said that the U.S economy added 175,000 jobs in May.     

Apart from encouraging initial claims numbers, the Street also received good news from the retail sector. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce retail sales increased 0.6% in May from the previous month. The figure was above the consensus estimate of an increase of 0.4%. Retail trades increased 0.7%. Better-than-expected retail sales number was boosted by increase in sales of automobiles.   

Promising initial claims numbers and a gain in retail sales indicated the improving health of the U.S economy. Market experts expected the growth of the U.S. economy to slow down following implementation of federal spending cuts and social security taxes, which began from January 1. However, a decrease in initial claims and an improvement in retail sales indicate that the economy may be in a better position than previously anticipated.   

The consumer discretionary stocks rallied after the encouraging retail sales report. The Consumer Discretionary SPDR (XLY) gained 1.9%. Stocks such as The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS), Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN), McDonald's Corporation (NYSE:MCD), Starbucks Corporation (NASDAQ:SBUX) and Time Warner Inc (NYSE:TWX) added 2.1%, 1.5%, 0.7%, 2.4% and 3.1%, respectively.

The financial sector also had a good run and the Financial Select Sector SPDR (XLF) increased 1.9%. Stocks such as JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE:JPM), Goldman Sachs Group Inc (NYSE:GS), Bank of America Corp (NYSE:BAC), Citigroup Inc (NYSE:C) and Wells Fargo & Co (NYSE:WFC) gained 1.9%, 2.5%, 1.2%, 1.7% and 1.7%, respectively.

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