US STOCKS-Wall St gains on jobless claims; Dow, S&P set records

Last Updated: Thu, Apr 11, 2013 17:30 hrs

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

* Jobless claims fall more than expected

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

* Dow up 0.5 pct, S&P 500 up 0.5 pct, Nasdaq up 0.1 pct

By Angela Moon

NEW YORK, April 11 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks rose on Thursday, with the Dow and the S&P 500 climbing to fresh all-time intraday highs after data showed jobless claims dropped more than expected.

Nevertheless, technology stocks were the day's underperformers, with tech blue chips such as Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard sharply lower after an industry report that showed shipments of personal computers had fallen significantly in the first quarter. Microsoft was also hit after Goldman Sachs cut its rating on the stock to "sell" from "neutral."

"It's not a good day for technology stocks, but overall, we are in a strong market," said Joe Bell, senior equity analyst at Schaeffer's Investment Research, in Cincinnati.

"It's encouraging to see how the market starts off weak on a bit of natural profit taking, and then market participants instantly bid the market higher."

Among the blue chips, three of the Dow's five biggest gainers - Pfizer Inc, Boeing Co and Home Depot Inc - hit new 52-week highs.

Before the opening bell, Labor Department data showed initial claims for state unemployment benefits fell much more than expected last week - giving relief to investors who were rattled last Friday by a much weaker-than-expected non-farm payrolls report.

The Dow Jones industrial average was up 77.63 points, or 0.52 percent, at 14,879.87 - off an all-time intraday high of 14,887.51. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was up 7.98 points, or 0.50 percent, at 1,595.71. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 4.75 points, or 0.14 percent, at 3,302.00.

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.

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.

A selloff in the tech sector, though, curbed the Nasdaq's advance and weighed on the broad market.

A leading tech tracking firm said personal computer sales plunged 14 percent in the first three months of the year, the biggest decline in two decades of keeping records, in a report released after Wednesday's closing bell.

Hewlett-Packard fell 6.8 percent to $20.81, Microsoft shed 4.9 percent to $28.79 and Intel lost 2.8 percent to $21.64 to rank among the biggest drags on both the Dow and the S&P 500. The S&P information technology sector index slipped 0.6 percent.

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.

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