By Kate Gibson
NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- U.S. stocks jumped Wednesday, reclaiming the bulk of the week-to-date losses after data cast an optimistic light on jobs and consumers as holiday-shopping season begins.
"The economic data stream continues to perform much better than expected," said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Jefferies & Co.
Economic reports showed U.S. jobless claims last week sliding to 2008 lows and consumer confidence and spending rising.
Data illustrating a steep drop in new-home sales and manufacturing orders were less positive.
Down 167 points after the past two days of trading, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) on Wednesday climbed 151.63 points, or 1.3%, to 11,187.09, with all but two of its 30 components trading higher.
The S&P 500 Index (SPX) rose 17.25 points, or 1.5%, to 1,197.98, with the consumer-discretionary sector leading gains among its 10 industry groups and Tiffany & Co. (TIF) among its notable advancers.
"The S&P is approaching resistance at 1,200, and that may provide a cap for today," noted Elliot Spar, market strategist at Stifel Nicolaus.
If the S&P 500 closes above 1,200 on either Wednesday or Friday, the scenario would "set the stage for a challenge of the recent high at 1,227," Spar added in an afternoon research note.
Tiffany shares rose 5.4% after the upscale jewelry retailer reported better-than-expected earnings and offered hopeful words about holiday sales. .
Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) added 5.5% after Citigroup Inc. said the online retailer is gaining the most from rising Internet sales.
Since 1983, the S&P 500 has risen the day before Thanksgiving 80% of the time, said Hogan.
Up 1% for the week so far, the Nasdaq Composite Index (RIXF) gained 47.32 points, or 1.9%, to 2,542.27.
For every stock that fell, five rose on the New York Stock Exchange, where nearly 571 million shares had traded as of 3:30 p.m. Eastern.
Wednesday's gains came after a report showed jobless claims fell by 34,000 to 407,000 last week, while the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan index of consumer sentiment climbed to 71.6 in October, its highest level since June.
The data showing a decline in applications for jobless benefits propelled staffing companies higher, with Monster Worldwide Inc. (MWW) up 7.9% and Robert Half International Inc. (RHI) and Kforce Inc. (KFRC) also up, both by about 3%.
Other economic data had demand for new homes and orders for durable goods declining, while U.S. household purchases gained.
On Thursday, U.S. markets will be closed for the Thanksgiving holiday, with the stock market slated for an early close Friday.