Stocks jumped to new record highs and the Dow shot past 20,600 on Wednesday after more reports showed the U.S. economy continues to strengthen.
The Dow Jones industrial average climbed 107 points, up 0.5% to a new closing high of 20,611.86.
Also building upon their record highs set in the previous session were the S&P 500 and Nasdaq composite, up 0.5% to 2349.25 and 0.6% to 5819.44, respectively.
The encouraging data could push the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates more aggressively from the record lows marked during the Great Recession.
Wednesday’s economic reports give the Federal Reserve more encouragement to raise interest rates, and economists said the possibility is increasing that it may happen at the central bank’s next meeting in March. Retailers had stronger sales in January than economists expected, and inflation at the consumer level was the highest in years. Consumer prices rose 2.5% in January from a year earlier, the highest rate since March 2012.
Fed Chair Janet Yellen said in testimony before a Congressional committee that the strengthening job market and a modest move higher in inflation should warrant continued, gradual increases in interest rates, echoing her comments from a day earlier. The central bank raised rates in December for just the second time in a decade, after keeping rates at nearly zero to help lift the economy out of the Great Recession.
Treasury yields jumped as investors sold off bonds. The 10-year Treasury yield rose to 2.51% from 2.47% late Tuesday.
When bonds are paying more in interest, it can mean less demand from income investors for stocks that pay big dividends. Utility stocks, which are some of the biggest dividend payers, fell 0.8%, the largest loss among the 11 sectors that make up the S&P 500. Real-estate investment trusts, which are also go-to buys for dividend seekers, were weak as well.
Financial stocks had some of the biggest gains, and those in the S&P 500 rose 0.9%. Banks can benefit from higher interest rates by charging more for loans.