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US: Wall St touches new record after Wal-Mart earnings


[NEW YORK] US stocks advanced modestly on Thursday to send the Dow and S&P to new record intraday highs following earnings from Wal-Mart and data on the labour market.

Wal-Mart shares climbed 3.4 per cent to US$81.92 as one of the biggest boosts to both the Dow and S&P 500 after the retail giant posted a 2.9 per cent increase in third-quarter revenue.

Weekly initial jobless claims rose to 290,000, above expectations for 280,000 claims, but remained near a 14-year low, and stood below the 300,000 mark for a ninth straight week.

The Dow and S&P 500 had ended slightly lower on Wednesday to break a five-day streak of record closing highs, while the Nasdaq managed to advance. While stocks have rallied of late, moved have been modest, with the S&P 500 yet to post a gain of more than 1 per cent this month. "It's great to see stocks going up, but at the same time investors are troubled about something, and what they are a little bit troubled about is valuation," said Hugh Johnson, chief investment officer of Hugh Johnson Advisors LLC in Albany, New York.

"That's why you get this creep higher, not euphoria." The S&P 500 has rallied more than 9 per cent from a six-month low in October, buoyed by supportive economic data and corporate earnings. For the year so far, it is up 10.6 per cent.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 85.93 points, or 0.49 per cent, to 17,698.13, the S&P 500 gained 6.6 points, or 0.32 per cent, to 2,044.85 and the Nasdaq Composite added 26.12 points, or 0.56 per cent, to 4,701.26.

JC Penney shares tumbled 9.7 per cent to $7.01 after it reported a smaller-than-expected quarterly loss Wednesday but said same-store sales were flat and slightly cut its full-year revenue forecast.

Kohl's Corp lost 3.7 per cent to US$55.79. The department store operator reported lower-than-expected quarterly sales and profit.

As earnings season winds down, Thomson Reuters data showed that of 460 companies in the S&P 500 to report, 74.6 per cent beat expectations, above the 63 per cent average beat rate since 1994 and 67 per cent for the past four quarters. Earnings overall were expected to grow 10.1 per cent over the year-ago period.

DreamWorks Animation shares jumped 17.2 per cent to US$26.22 after the New York Times cited sources as saying toymaker Hasbro Inc was in talks to buy the Hollywood studio. Hasbro shares lost 5.6 per cent to US$54.24.

Berkshire Hathaway Inc said it would acquire Procter & Gamble Co's Duracell battery business. Procter shares edged up 0.4 per cent at US$89.80 while Berskhire's Class B shares edged up 0.5 per cent to $146.21.