By Nikolaj Gammeltoft and Namitha Jagadeesh
NEW YORK - U.S. stocks advanced, putting the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index on track for its fourth consecutive week of gains, as gauges for leading indicators and consumer sentiment advanced more than estimated.
Northrop Grumman Corp. climbed 3.8 percent after increasing its share-buyback program by $4 billion. Boeing Co. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. added added more than 2 percent to pace gains in the Dow Jones Industrial Average. J.C. Penney Co. slid 3.7 percent after its first-quarter loss widened.
The S&P 500 rose 0.5 percent to 1,658.59. at 11:55 a.m. in New York. The equity benchmark is heading for a 1.5 percent weekly gain. The Dow advanced 61.95 points, or 0.4 percent, to 15,295.17, a fresh record. Options contracts on stocks, exchange-traded funds and indexes expire today, leading investors to adjust their holdings of some securities. Trading of S&P 500 stocks was 3.4 percent higher than the 30-day average at this time of day.
“You’ve got the leading indicators helping the market today,” Thomas Nyheim, a Wilmington, Del.-based fund manager for Christiana Trust, which oversees about $16 billion, said in a phone interview. “We’re seeing good signs for the economy, you’re getting this grinding, slow growth that just keeps coming out.”
The index of U.S. leading indicators climbed in April, a rebound from March that suggests the world’s largest economy may be poised for further expansion. The Conference Board’s gauge of the outlook for the next three to six months climbed 0.6 percent last month after falling a revised 0.2 percent in March that was steeper than previously reported, the New York-based group said today
Consumer confidence rose in May to the highest level in almost six years as an advancing stock market and cheaper gas prices helped lift Americans’ outlook on the economy. The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan preliminary index of consumer sentiment rose to 83.7 in May from 76.4 the prior month, a report today showed.
The U.S. bull market has entered its fifth year. The S&P 500 has surged 145 percent from a 12-year low in 2009, driven by better-than-estimated corporate earnings and three rounds of bond purchases from the Federal Reserve.