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S&P 500 climbs to all-time high: 1,569.19

Traders work the floor of the New York Stock Exchange during late trading on March 25, 2013, in New York City
Traders work the floor of the New York Stock Exchange during late trading on March 25, 2013, in New York City. The S&P 500 set an all-time closing record Thursday in a sign of growing confidence in the US economy.

The S&P 500 climbed to an all-time closing record Thursday in a sign of growing confidence in the US economy.

The broad-based index, a bellwether of US markets and the US economy, finished at 1,569.19, up 6.34 points, or 0.41 percent, pushing past the previous record of 1,565.15, set on October 9, 2007.

The narrower Dow Jones Industrial Average, which burst through its October 2007 record three weeks ago, propelled to yet another new closing peak of 14,578.54, up 52.38 points (0.36 percent).

The tech-rich Nasdaq Composite finished up 11.00 (0.34 percent) higher at 3,267.52.

The new record extends a rally that has shown impressive momentum in the first quarter of 2013. Thursday's closing price is more than double the March 2009 bottom reached by the S&P 500 at the depths of the recession.

Market watchers credited steadily improving US economic data, solid corporate earnings and continued high liquidity from the Federal Reserve's stimulus measures.

The record came despite the release of middling economic news Thursday. The Commerce Department released a revised estimate for the fourth quarter of 2012 that placed GDP growth at just 0.4 percent, lower than some analysts had expected.

New jobless claims came in worse than forecast, and the Chicago purchasing managers index reading pointed to slowing growth.

"The data was somewhat on the negative side," said Paul Edelstein, an economist at IHS Global Insight.

But he said markets were likely reassured by news out of Cyprus, where banks reopened relatively uneventfully.

"We're doing well and the eurozone's not, but at least on the current path, the eurozone shouldn't matter too much for the US," Edelstein said.

While the Dow carries prestige as an older index, many market players consider the S&P 500 more significant, because unlike the Dow, it covers all major economic sectors. and weighs the market differently.

The Dow leaves out major companies like Apple and Google and gives weight to a company's stock price rather than its market capitalization, critics say.

"It's a good sign," said Chris Low, chief economist at FTN Financial. The S&P 500 "is a far more important milestone than the one of the Dow. It is an indication that the profitability of the US businesses has increased since the recession substantially and the outlook for growth remains positive."

Technologies were mixed: Apple fell 2.1 percent and Google dropped 1.1 percent. But eBay gained 4.3 percent and Microsoft added 0.9 percent.

Pharmaceutical developer Biogen continued to ride the wave of a government approval for a multiple sclerosis medication, gaining 5.4 percent.

Other biotechnology companies also gained. Amgen rose 2.4 percent, Gilead Sciences increased 2.6 percent and the Celgene added 2.4 percent.

Oil and gas company Apache Corp. rose 1.6 percent after its Australian subsidiary and partners signed a long-term agreement to sell natural gas from Australia.

Deckers, which sells popular footwear brands Uggs and Teva, jumped 6 percent after Jefferies raised its estimates due to greater supply of sheepskin, a key raw material.

Apparel company PVH, which includes the Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein brands, sank 5.3 percent after it predicted higher integration costs and lower earnings from its acquisition of the Warnaco brand.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury held at 1.85, the same level as late Wednesday, while the yield on the 30-year increased to 3.10 percent from the 3.09 percent seen late Thursday. Bond prices move inversely to yields.

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