By Ken Sweet, Associated Press
NEW YORK — The Dow Jones industrial average topped 17,000 for the first time Thursday, the index’s first big 1,000-point milestone this year, following news that hiring in the U.S. accelerated last month.
The market rose from the start of trading after the government reported that U.S. employers hired more employees than investors and economists expected. Trading was extremely light, though, and the market closed early ahead of the Fourth of July holiday.
Thursday’s gains add to what has been a strong month-and-a-half for Wall Street. Along with the Dow hitting 17,000, the Standard & Poor’s 500 index is approaching its own milestone of 2,000. The indexes have risen as a steady stream of good news on jobs and manufacturing bolsters investor confidence.
“Right now the story is onward and upward,” said Neil Massa, senior trader at John Hancock Asset Management.
The Dow rose 92.02 points, or 0.5 percent, to 17,068.26. The S&P 500 rose 10.82 points, or 0.6 percent, to 1,985.44 and the Nasdaq composite rose 28.19 points, or 0.6 percent, to 4,485.93.
Investors were encouraged by the latest jobs report from the Department of Labor, which showed U.S. employers added 288,000 workers to their payrolls in June, far more than forecast. The unemployment rate fell to 6.1 percent.
While the Dow’s passing of 17,000 is a notable milestone, most Wall Street professionals don’t focus on it. The vast majority of mutual funds and investors use the broader S&P 500 index as their benchmark for how they are performing. In fact, the Dow has lagged behind the rest of the stock market this year. The index is up 3 percent in 2014 compared with the S&P 500’s rise of 7.4 percent.
“That said, investors should be feeling good about Dow 17,000,” Scott Wren, a senior equity strategist with Wells Fargo Advisors, wrote in a note to investors. “The stock market has more than recovered from levels seen during the financial crisis more than five years ago.”
The Dow’s 17,000 milestone is another reminder of its bull market run. The index has climbed more than 10,500 points since its Great Recession low of 6,547.05 on March 9, 2009.