US stocks settled higher on Thursday (30 March) as financial shares rallied and investors took in the latest economic data. The Nasdaq Composite also managed to pull up into record territory since 1 March.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average edged up 69.17 points, or 0.3%, to settle at 20,728.49. Gains were led by Exxon Mobil Corp, American Express Co and Goldman Sachs Group Inc.
The S&P 500 rose 6.93 points, or 0.3%, to close at 2,368.06. Seven of the index's 11 sectors, led by the financials and industrials sector, ended higher. The financial sector was influenced by bank stocks such as the SPDR S&P Bank ETF (KBE) and the Regional Banking ETF (KRE), which popped more than 2.5%.
According to CNBC, energy stocks also outperformed, with the sector jumping 0.4%. Crude oil prices for May delivery rose 1.7% to settle at $50.35 per barrel, improving on gains made on Wednesday (29 March).
Lukman Otunuga, research analyst at FXTM, noted that despite the fact "relatively bullish US crude inventories data and supply disruptions in Libya have provided oil markets a welcome boost, the gains may be limited as investors mull over the effectiveness of OPEC's supply cuts".
Meanwhile, the Nasdaq Composite jumped 16.80 points, or 0.3%, to end at a record 5,914.34. Thursday's closing marked the tech-heavy index's first record closing since 1 March and the 21st of the year, MarketWatch reported.
"We're in the last two days of the quarter and most of the end-of-quarter window dressing has probably taken place already," Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at First Standard Financial, told CNBC. "I think the market is going to stay range-bound until the new quarter starts."
The Dow Jones remained down 0.4% for March, while the S&P 500 is up 0.2% and the Nasdaq is up 1.5% for the month.
Economic growth unexpectedly strong
In economic news, the US economy grew at a rate of 2.1% in the final quarter of 2016, surpassing expectations. Jobless claims dropped by 3,000 to 258,000 in the latest week to reach near their lowest level in decades, MarketWatch reported.
"This is a market that looks like it may be gaining some traction as we go into the end of the month. The upward revision to GDP suggests economic momentum, and that's providing some lift," explained Alan Gayle, senior investment strategist at RidgeWorth Investments, to MarketWatch.
US Treasurys gave up modest gains following the data release, with the benchmark 10-year yield rising to 2.42%. Gold prices for June delivery dropped 0.7% at $1,248.00 an ounce.