S&P 500 sets new record high after jobless claims dip more than expected

Stocks gained on Thursday to reach new record levels, adding to advances after the major indexes closed out a strong second quarter and first half of the year.

The S&P 500 set a fresh record intraday high Thursday morning, and each of the Dow and Nasdaq also edged up.

The blue-chip index gained 14.4% for the year to date, and ended June with a more than 2% gain for a fifth straight monthly rise.

A batch of strong economic data helped propel equities higher during Wednesday’s session, with private payrolls growing by a better-than-expected 692,000 in June and pointing to a potentially strong print in the Labor Department’s “official” June jobs report on Friday.

For the April through June quarter, the information technology, real estate and communication services sectors outperformed amid a broad-based rotation back into technology and growth stocks.

The rotation coincided with lessened concerns over inflationary pressures, as investors considered signs that price increases would be only transitory in the early stages of the recovery. The cyclical energy and financial sectors, however, are still the best performers for the year-to-date.

Other strategists also suggested that the tug-of-war between cyclical and growth stocks will likely continue into the second half of the year.