U.S. stocks rose strongly Thursday after the latest signal that American consumers are regaining their economic footing.
The Conference Board said after trading began that Americans’ confidence in the economy surged last month to the highest level in nearly five years. Many were encouraged by an improving job market, the group said. The Dow Jones industrial average shot up as many as 177 points, putting it on track for its biggest daily gain since mid-September.
Stocks had opened higher after a string of encouraging reports about the job market and U.S. companies. The Dow was up more than 100 points before the consumer confidence reading added a 50-point boost.
It was the second day of trading after Superstorm Sandy ravaged New York and forced markets to close on Monday and Tuesday. Companies that had postponed earnings announcements rushed to release their results.
The upswing started with strong sales results from retailers and automakers. Chrysler had its best October in five years, with sales rising 10 percent, despite the three-day disruption caused by the storm.
General Motors reported earnings that far exceeded analysts’ expectations. Exxon Mobil beat the financial expectations of analysts surveyed by FactSet, but reported lower production of oil and gas.
Kellogg Co.’s net income edged up in the third quarter as its acquisition of Pringles chips earlier this year paid off.
The Dow rose 170 points to 13,265 in the first hour of trading. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index gained 13 to 1,424. The Nasdaq composite index jumped 34 points to 3,010.
New applications for unemployment benefits fell 9,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 363,000, a level consistent with modest hiring, the Labor Department said before the market opened. Separately, payroll provider ADP said businesses added 158,000 jobs in October.
Those data are a warm-up for the October jobs report, which is due to be released on Friday. The report will be watched closely by traders seeking clues about the strength of the economic recovery. If the number is especially good or bad, it also could influence the outcome of next week’s presidential election.
Exxon Mobil’s oil and gas production fell 7.5 percent and lower prices also cut into its profit. The stock fell 12 cents to $91.05.
Kellogg Co. leapt $1.17, or 2 percent, to $53.49 after a strong earnings report.
Pfizer said its third-quarter profit fell 14 percent on plunging sales, mainly due to new competition from generic forms of Lipitor, long the world’s top-selling drug. Pfizer fell 35 cents to $24.52.