If it feels like European Central Bank president Mario Draghi has a lot to say about the direction U.S. stock markets take on any given day, it’s because …well, sometimes he does.
After once again reassuring markets both here and abroad of the central bank’s commitment to its bond-buying plan, markets moved to the upside Thursday, where they stayed for the remainder of the day, extending Wednesday’s gains.
Markets also were assisted by a several economic reports that were, if not outright winners, certainly provided some optimism.
The Labor Department reported the number of people filing first-time claims for unemployment rose by 4,000 people for the week ended Sept. 29, worse than forecast but in total (367,000) fewer than a feared 400,000 figure. In addition to the unemployment news, factory orders came in stronger than expected.
For the record, the S&P 500 rose 0.72% to 1,461.40, while the Dow advanced 0.60% to 13,575.36 and the Nasdaq moved ahead 0.45% to 3,149.46.
The big winner on the day was the banking sector, as potential upgrades by Moody’s to Regions Financial (NYSE:RF) and Zions Bancorporation (NASDAQ:ZION) lifted the industry. RF shares rose more than 3% while ZION was up more than 2%. Big financials Bank of America (NYSE:BAC), Citigroup (NYSE:C), Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS) and JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM) tagged along, all gaining more than 2% on the day.
Several industries appeared to gain traction from last night’s presidential debate, as action in the health care sector centered on Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s promise to repeal “Obamacare.” Hospital stocks including Tenet Healthcare (NYSE:THC), HCA (NYSE:HCA) and Health Management Associates (NYSE:HMA) all were down nearly 3% on the day, while health insurers UnitedHealth (NYSE:UNH) and Cigna (NYSE:CI) saw slight pops.
Coal companies also might have benefited from the “Romney Bounce,” with his comments regarding the coal industry reverberating with Arch Coal (NYSE:ACI, +7.9%), Alpha Natural Resources (NYSE:ANR, +6.8%) and Consol Energy (NYSE:CNX, +5.6%), among others.
Shares of software data integration company Informatica (NASDAQ:INFA) crashed more than 22% after the company revised its third-quarter outlook down, essentially blaming the economic slowdown in Europe.
Sprint (NYSE:S) saw Wednesday’s gains virtually wiped out with a 2% drop as analysts demured Thursday following Wednesday’s announcement of a Deutsche Telecom (PINK:DTEGY) (T-Mobile USA) buyout of MetroPCS (NYSE:PCS). Bloomberg also reported that Sprint could make a rival bid to block the merger.
- Office Depot (NYSE:ODP): Up 8.4% (19 cents) to $2.46.
- Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX): Up 6.5% ($4.09) to $66.67. (Read more here)
- Nvidia (NASDAQ:NVDA): Up 4.5% (59 cents) to $13.62.
- MAKO Surgical (NASDAQ:MAKO): Down 6.9% ($1.21) to $16.44.
- Leap Wireless (NASDAQ:LEAP): Down 6.1% (38 cents) to $5.85.
- Dean Foods (NYSE:DF): Down 2.8% (44 cents) to $15.40.
Marc Bastow is an Assistant Editor at InvestorPlace.com. As of this writing, he did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.