US STOCKS-Wall St climbs for 4th day as Dow, S&P 500 hit new highs

Last Updated: Thu, Apr 11, 2013 19:10 hrs

* Retail stocks lead the S&P after April sales outlook

* Three of the Dow's five top gainers reach 52-week highs

* Encouraging claims data counters weak payroll report

* PC shares slide after firm says PC sales plummeted in Q1

* Dow up 0.4 pct, S&P 500 up 0.4 pct, Nasdaq up 0.1 pct

By Ryan Vlastelica

NEW YORK, April 11 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks rose for a fourth straight day on Thursday, sending the Dow and the S&P 500 to new all-time highs on positive jobs market data and forecasts for stronger retail sales.

Despite the S&P's gains of about 10 percent this year, investors have been concerned about the pace of recovery, especially after an unusually weak payrolls report for March.

But on Thursday the Labor Department said first-time claims for jobless benefits fell far more than expected last week, dropping to the lower end of the range for the year.

In addition, retail executives and analysts forecast improved same-store sales in April after March's ho-hum start to spring due to cold weather.

Three of the S&P 500's five top percentage gainers were retailers, including Ross Stores up 6.2 percent to $63.98, L Brands up 5.6 percent at $50.88 and J.C. Penney Co up 4.6 percent to $14.74. The SPDR S&P retail ETF jumped 2.3 percent to $73.17 and hit a new all-time high.

"This data is especially welcome on the heels of last week's jobs report, and it just adds to the tremendous demand that there continues to be for equities," said Leo Grohowski, chief investment officer at BNY Mellon Wealth Management in New York. "The money that has been waiting for a pullback is running out of patience."

Still, gains were limited in the Nasdaq as technology stocks sold off on an industry report showing shipments of personal computers had fallen significantly in the first quarter. The S&P information technology sector index slipped 0.6 percent.

Hewlett-Packard Co slumped 7.3 percent to $20.70 as the S&P's top percentage loser, following by Microsoft Corp , down 5 percent to $28.76. Microsoft was also hit after Goldman Sachs downgraded the stock to "sell" from "neutral," citing "worsening PC trends and a lack of traction in tablets and smartphones."

Both HP and Microsoft are Dow components, but the index saw plenty of strength from other members. Three of the blue-chip average's five biggest gainers - Pfizer Inc, Boeing Co and Home Depot Inc - all hit new 52-week highs.

The Dow Jones industrial average was up 63.17 points, or 0.43 percent, at 14,865.41. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was up 6.30 points, or 0.40 percent, at 1,594.03. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 1.69 points, or 0.05 percent, at 3,298.94.

The Dow had reached a record intraday high at around 11:21 a.m. in Thursday's session, and extended that to a fresh record by early afternoon. The S&P 500 quickly followed the Dow's lead in late morning trading, climbing to an all-time intraday high of 1,597.35 at around 11:29 a.m.

On Wednesday, both the Dow and the S&P 500 rose more than 1 percent to close at new record highs after three straight days of gains.

"It's amazing to me that we're already a few points away from our mid-year target of 1,600, which had seemed somewhat aggressive," said Grohowski, who oversees about $179 billion in client assets. "But there's still skepticism about the market and tons of cash on the sidelines, which encourages me that the market can continue to pull higher."

The Dow got its biggest boost from Pfizer, up 2.6 percent at $30.70, off its fresh 52-week high at $30.82, after JPMorgan raised its target price on the U.S. drugmaker's stock to $33 from $32.

Shares of Acadia Pharmaceuticals Inc surged 57.3 percent to $12.54, off a 52-week high at $12.68, after the drugmaker said data from an initial late-stage trial would be sufficient to file for approval for its experimental antipsychotic drug for Parkinson's disease patients.

Other economic data showed import prices slipped 0.5 percent last month, in line with expectations, while export prices fell 0.4 percent, signaling inflation pressure remained tepid and would allow the Federal Reserve to continue with its current monetary policy.

More from Sify: