By Noel Randewich
(Reuters) – U.S. stocks ended sharply stronger on Thursday and the S&P 500 closed at a record high as investors worried less about interest rates and a weaker dollar offered the possibility of stronger sales for U.S. multinationals.
The S&P 500 <.SPX> gained 22.62 points, or 1.08 percent, to end at 2,121.1, exceeding its previous all-time high close of 2,117.69 on April 24. The Nasdaq Composite had its strongest day since January.
After oscillating in what many investors view as a range for much of the past three months, the S&P’s gain in 2015 now stands at 3 percent.
The dollar moved to its lowest since January against a basket of currencies of major U.S. trading partners – good news for companies that have large foreign sales.
A report showing a dip in initial claims for state unemployment benefits last week did little to change broad expectations that the U.S. Federal Reserve would not increase interest rates before the second half of 2015 at the earliest.
“There’s a 50-50 chance they’re not going to raise rates this year, so why are we spending two years discussing this? Let’s focus on the fact that the economy is doing okay,” said Steve Goldman, principal of Goldman Management in Short Hills, New Jersey. “The path of least resistance is higher.”
Wall Street’s top banks expect the Federal Reserve to begin raising interest rates in September, according to a Reuters poll last week.
The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> rose 191.75 points, or 1.06 percent, to end at 18,252.24.
The Nasdaq Composite <.IXIC> added 69.10 points, or 1.39 percent, to 5,050.80.
All of the 10 major S&P 500 sectors were higher, with the tech index’s <.SPLRCT> 1.73 percent rise leading the way. Apple <AAPL.O> shares rose 2.33 percent, making the stock the biggest driver on both the Nasdaq and S&P 500.
Apple’s quarterly dividend, which many shareholders reinvest, was payable on Thursday.
Avon Products <AVP.N> briefly jumped as much as 27.4 percent after a regulatory filing from a firm said it had offered to buy the cosmetics company for nearly three times its market value. Avon said it had not received an offer.
Shake Shack <SHAK.N> fell 4.18 percent to $65.50 after the hamburger chain reported a surprise adjusted quarterly profit. The stock debuted in January at a listing price of $21.
The S&P 500 posted 31 new 52-week highs and 5 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 101 new highs and 29 new lows.
Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by 2,339 to 744, for a 3.14-to-1 ratio; on the Nasdaq, 1,909 issues rose and 861 fell, for a 2.22-to-1 ratio favoring advancers.
“When you get those kinds of advance-decline numbers, that means there’s a lot of buying. That’s what impresses me on days like today,” said Frank Gretz, a technical analyst at Wellington Shields & Co, a brokerage in New York. “A day like today clears the air to the upside.”
About 6.0 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges, below the 6.3 billion average for the last five sessions, according to BATS Global Markets.
(Additional reporting by Tanya Agrawal, editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty; Editing by Nick Zieminski)