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US: Stocks raise higher due to rosy data

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[NEW YORK] US stocks finished higher Thursday, boosted by the latest upbeat economic data and continuing the upward trend seen in the post-election period.

The blue-chip Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.2 per cent to finish at 18,903.82 and the broader S&P 500 gained 0.5 per cent at 2,187.12. The tech-rich Nasdaq posted the biggest gain, adding 0.7 per cent at 5,333.97.

The trading session followed several rosy economic data reports: weekly initial jobless claims hit a 43-year low in a sign of tightening employment markets, and the consumer price index for October showed its strongest gain in six months. Housing starts also rebounded for the month.

US Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen testified Thursday that an increase in interest rates could occur "relatively soon," supporting market expectations that a hike will come next month.

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Sinking shares in the retail giant Wal-Mart Stores weighed on the Dow's results, as the company's stock declined three per cent following disappointing third quarter revenues that rose 0.7 per cent but failed to meet analyst expectations.

As they prepare for the prime holiday shopping season, other major retailers also saw their prices fall: Sears lost five per cent while Costco dropped 0.6 per cent and organic grocer Whole Foods gave up 0.4 per cent.

Cisco Systems also was among the Dow's biggest losers following Wednesday's weak second quarter earnings forecast, seeing its share price fall 4.8 per cent.

Alan Skrainka of Cornerstone Wealth Management said investors were still cheered by Donald Trump's victory in last week's presidential elections.

"Since the election, the general tone has been there is going to be a more pro-business administration and that has created a lot of investor enthusiasm," he told AFP.