S&P 500 tops 1,700 for first time

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(CNNMoney)

Welcome to August! The Dow and S&P 500 rallied to new highs straight out of the gate Thursday and never looked back.

The S&P 500 climbed 1.3% and closed above 1,700 for the first time ever, while the Dow Jones industrial average advanced 0.8% to a record high.

The Nasdaq gained 1.4% to end at its highest level in almost 13 years.

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Economic data gives a boost: Stocks have been driven by positive economic news this week, and Thursday was no different.

The Labor Department reported the number of Americans filing first-time claims for unemployment benefits fell to a five-year low. That’s good news ahead of the government’s monthly jobs report, due Friday.

Economists surveyed by CNNMoney expect the economy will have added 180,000 jobs in July, and that the unemployment rate will have ticked lower.

Related: Nothing ‘modest’ or ‘moderate’ about market rally

The Institute for Supply Management also delivered positive news Thursday. The group’s monthly manufacturing sentiment index rose to 55.4, the highest level in two years. Any number above 50 signals growth.

But a separate report from the Census Bureau showed that construction spending declined 0.6% in June, surprising analysts who were expecting a slight rise.

Major automakers released their monthly sales results Thursday. General Motors (GM,Fortune 500), Ford (FFortune 500), Chrysler Group and Toyota (TM), the nation’s four largest automakers, had their best July since before the 2007 recession.

Investors also continued to be soothed by Indications that the Federal Reserve will not be too hasty when scaling down its massive bond-buying program.

Related: Fear & Greed Index

What’s moving: Procter & Gamble (PGFortune 500) reported better-than-expected earnings and sales for its fiscal fourth quarter.

Exxon Mobil (XOMFortune 500) reported quarterly earnings that fell short of forecasts, citing weaker refining margins, while revenue topped estimates.

Royal Dutch Shell (RDSA) shares dropped after the company reported earnings and revenue that missed estimates. The company cited higher costs, exploration charges and challenges in Nigeria, where oil thefts and supply disruptions have hit Shell’s bottom line.

Shares of DirecTV (DTVFortune 500) fell after the satellite television provider posted earnings that widely missed forecasts.

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