After an uninspiring start to the day, stocks shook off a disappointing report on U.S. initial jobless claims and ended Thursday with strong gains.
The Dow Jones industrial average closed at 13,204.62, up 113.90 points or 0.9 per cent. The broader S&P 500 closed at 1,399.98, up 9.29 points or 0.7 per cent. In Canada, the S&P/TSX composite index closed at 12,145.85, up 34.79 points or 0.3 per cent.
Before markets opened in the morning, the report on jobless claims weighed on major indexes. The U.S. Labor Department reported that claims fell only slightly from the previous week's revised level, to 388,000. That was well above expectations and continued a weak period for U.S. employment figures.
However, pending home sales was considerably better and seemed to lift spirits: Sales in March rose 4.1 per cent, better than the 1 per cent gain that economists had been expecting and hitting a two-year high. Homebuilder PulteGroup Inc. surged 10.1 per cent.
Among the Dow's big movers, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. rose 2.8 per cent, Chevron Corp. rose 2.3 per cent and AT&T Inc. rose 2.2 per cent. Apple Inc., which helped drive the S&P 500 and Nasdaq composite index sharply higher on Wednesday with its surprisingly strong quarter results, fell 0.4 per cent. As well, United Parcel Service fell 1.8 per cent after its quarterly earnings disappointed expectations.
It wasn't a great day for commodity producers reporting their quarterly results, with a number of big names missing analysts' expectations. Exxon Mobil fell 0.8 per cent after its first-quarter earnings slipped 11 per cent. In Canada, Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan fell 3.2 per cent and Goldcorp Inc. fell 6 per cent.
Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. rose 0.4 per cent after a poll by Brendan Wood International said that 94 per cent of shareholders supported the reform agenda proposed by activist shareholder Bill Ackman.
Shoppers Drug Mart Corp. fell 0.8 per cent after reporting that earnings rose to 4119-million or 56 cents a share, missing analysts' forecasts.