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U.S. stocks advanced, following the longest monthly gain for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index in a year, as financial shares rallied and after government data showed that jobless claims declined to a four-year low.
Benchmark gauges rose as the number of Americans filing first-time claims for jobless benefits fell to a level matching a four-year low, more evidence the labor market is healing. Stocks briefly pared gains as manufacturing in the U.S. unexpectedly expanded in February at a slower pace than forecast as orders cooled.
Dow 12,996.30 +44.23 +0.34%, Nasdaq 2,990.90 +24.01 +0.81%, S&P 500 1,373.76 +8.08 +0.59%
JPMorgan increased 2.9 percent, the most in the Dow, to $40.37. Bank of America climbed 2.3 percent to $8.15.
Goldman Sachs Group Inc. jumped 4 percent to $119.71. The fifth-biggest U.S. bank by assets agreed to buy Ariel Holdings Ltd.’s Bermuda-based insurance and reinsurance businesses to expand property and casualty coverage.
Gap surged 7.9 percent to $25.20. Sales climbed 4 percent, beating the average projection for a 1.4 percent drop from analysts surveyed by Retail Metrics Inc. Unseasonably warm weather boosted purchases of spring merchandise.
Kroger gained 2.1 percent to $24.28 after forecasting 2012 earnings of at least $2.28 a share. On average, the analysts surveyed by Bloomberg estimated $2.23.
Sotheby’s dropped 9.9 percent to $35.44. The publicly traded auctioneer of fine arts and collectibles said fourth- quarter profit fell 26 percent as sales slid.
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