Dow, S&P 500 set records on strong retail, jobless data

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Stock markets opened to record levels Thursday morning following strong economic data on jobless claims and retail sales.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average opened up 200 points, or 0.6 percent, and the S&P 500 jumped 29 points, or 0.7 percent in the opening minutes of trading, each surpassing recently set records.

The push follows the release of government economic data earlier Thursday showing that retail sales boomed 9.8 percent in March, well above the 6.1 percent level economists expected.

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The increase was fueled in part by $1,400 stimulus checks, which the Treasury Department began distributing in March following passage of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, as well as by states lifting restrictions on business activity related to the virus.

Health experts warn that the move to quickly reopen is fueling an increase in COVID-19 case counts and prolonging the pandemic.

Jobless claims also showed strong movement, falling 25 percent to 576,000, the lowest level since lockdowns began last March.

The figure is still more than double the weekly claims level before the pandemic hit, but showed significant movement in a rebounding economy.