Upbeat retail and jobs news lifts markets
U.S. unemployment claims fell close to their lowest level in six years, the government reported, and J.C. Penney and Bed Bath & Beyond delivered encouraging news.
The positive trends outweighed worries about a potential government shutdown in Washington next week. Those concerns had led the S&P 500 index to five consecutive days of declines, the index's worst run in 2013.
That ended Thursday when the S&P 500 index rose 5.90 points, or 0.35 percent, to close at 1,698.67.
U.S. economic growth rose to an annual rate of 2.5 percent from April through June, the Commerce Department reported Thursday. That was an increase from the 1.1 percent growth in the previous quarter.
Applications for unemployment benefits fell 5,000 to a seasonally adjusted 305,000 last week, the government said, the fewest since September 2007, three months before the Great Recession began.
While the economic news was encouraging, it wasn't spectacular. Some analysts said it justified the Federal Reserve's surprise decision last week to keep up its economic stimulus.
The U.S. central bank has been buying $85 billion of bonds a month to keep long-term interest rates low, which has encouraged borrowing and driven up stock prices.
Growth-sensitive retail stocks were among the best performers in the 10 industry groups that make up the S&P 500 index.
The group got a lift from the troubled department-store chain J.C. Penney, which said it was pleased with its turnaround efforts.
Penney's stock rose 30 cents, or 3 percent, to end at $10.42. The stock climbed as high as $11.22 during the day.
Bed Bath & Beyond also gave the industry a boost. The stock climbed $3.32, or 4 percent, to $77.54 after the company said its quarterly profit increased 11 percent.
Other stock indexes rose. The Dow Jones industrial average climbed 55.04 points, or 0.36 percent, to 15,328.30. The Nasdaq climbed 26.33 points, or 0.70 percent, to 3,787.43.
In government bond trading, the yield on the 10-year note edged up to 2.64 percent from 2.63 percent late Wednesday.
Among other stocks making big moves, Hertz fell $4.15, or 16 percent, to $21.63 after the car-rental company cut its earnings and revenue forecasts because of weaker-than-expected demand at U.S. airports.