Technology stocks roared higher, sending the Nasdaq composite index back into record territory and pushing the Dow Jones industrials firmly above 11,000.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 40.67 points to close at 11,039.06. The advance left the Dow more than 1,000 points above its October low of 10,019.71 and poised to attack the all-time high of 11,326.04, set Aug. 25.
Broader indicators were also higher. The Nasdaq composite shot up 99.07, to 3452.78, topping its Nov. 26 record of 3447.81. The Standard & Poor's 500-stock index rose 11.32, to 1409.04.
Hewlett-Packard buoyed the Dow, rising 3 3/8, to 99 7/8, as of 5:45 p.m. EST. The company held an analysts meeting this week to detail plans to cut costs and expand sales of its computer servers, and several investment firms expressed optimism about the computer maker's prospects under Carly Fiorina, its new chief executive officer.
The Nasdaq rose on gains from a wide range of technology stocks. Oracle rose 5 1/4, to 75-15/16; Sun Microsystems rose 5-13/16, to 136; and eBay rose 7-1/16, to 167-1/16.
Today's sharp advance perplexed some analysts, as stocks rose despite decidedly mixed news about the state of the U.S. economy. The Commerce Department said new-home sales hit a record level in October, rising 16.3 percent from September despite rising mortgage rates. The report hurt bonds. The price of the Treasury's benchmark 30-year bond fell $3.75 per $1,000 invested, and its yield rose to 6.31 percent, from 6.29 percent late Wednesday.
The strong housing report also diluted the impact of a survey that that showed the number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits rose last week.
The strength of the job market has kept inflation jitters alive on Wall Street, which is concerned that companies competing for workers will be forced to raise prices to offer attractive salaries. The rise in jobless claims was viewed as a sign the job market is not getting tighter.
Few other sectors matched the massive gains of the technology stocks. Drug stocks were mostly higher after Novartis AG and British-Swedish rival AstraZeneca PLC announced they would spin off and merge their agricultural units. The deal spurred hopes of further consolidation among U.S. drug and life sciences companies.
SmithKline Beecham rose 4 1/4, to 71 1/4, and Glaxo Wellcome gained 1-9/16, to 60-9/16.