By Rodrigo Campos
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Financial stocks led the S&P 500 and the Dow industrials to record highs on Thursday after JPMorgan's strong quarterly results, while upbeat economic data cemented bets that the current rally on Wall Street can chug along.
JPMorgan <JPM.N>, the biggest U.S. bank by assets and the first among its peers to issue results this earnings season, reported a much better-than-expected rise in quarterly revenue.
The bank's shares rose 1.5 percent to $64.12, while the S&P financial index <.SPSY> rose 0.89 percent.
Support for stocks came also in the form of strong U.S. economic data. Filings for unemployment benefits unexpectedly held steady near a 43-year low last week, while producer prices recorded their biggest gain in a year in June.
Besides banks, cyclical sectors like materials, technology and consumer discretionary, expected to outperform in an environment of economic expansion, also posted strong gains while the only sector to post a loss was defensive utilities.
"We had a couple of good data points and on that basis the market has continued to grind higher," said Phil Orlando, chief equity market strategist at Federated Investors in New York.
Despite lauding JPMorgan, Orlando was skeptical its peers could match the bank's results.
"Not everyone is able to operate as well as JPMorgan," he said. "They've shown us what's possible with good management but that doesn't mean everyone will perform equally well."
Six banks report earnings on Friday including S&P 500 components Wells Fargo <WFC.N> and Citigroup <C.N>.
The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> rose 134.29 points, or 0.73 percent, to 18,506.41, the S&P 500 <.SPX> gained 11.32 points, or 0.53 percent, to 2,163.75 and the Nasdaq Composite <.IXIC> added 28.33 points, or 0.57 percent, to 5,034.06.
The S&P and Dow closed at record highs. The S&P hit 2,168.99, its fourth straight intraday record peak, while the Dow hit 18,537.57 to mark its third straight intraday record high.
The S&P 500 materials index <.SPLRCM> gained 0.8 percent, boosted partly by Monsanto's <MON.N> 3.1 percent increase to $104.22 after Bayer <BAYGn.DE> raised its offer for the seed and pesticide company.
Completing a stocks trifecta with strong data and upbeat earnings, monetary policy is expected to continue to support higher prices both in the United States and globally.
Atlanta Federal Reserve President Dennis Lockhart said the Fed should remain "cautious and patient" with any future interest rate increases, while the Bank of England, although it kept rates on hold on Thursday, held out the prospect of a stimulus package soon to help the economy cope with Britain's vote last month to leave the European Union.
The more upbeat view on equities brought down the cost of protection against a decline on the S&P 500. The CBOE Volatility index <.VIX> closed at its lowest in 11 months.
Results so far have been reassuring. KFC owner Yum Brands <YUM.N> rose 3 percent to $88.27 a day after its key China business showed signs of strength.
Delta's <DAL.N> higher-than-expected quarterly profit sent its shares 3.6 percent higher. An industry index <.XAL> has risen almost 12 percent over the past six sessions.
Shares of Japanese messaging app operator Line Corp <LN.N> soared as much as 37 percent in their U.S. market debut in the biggest tech IPO this year. Shares closed up 26.6 percent at $41.58.
Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 1.35-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.23-to-1 ratio favored advancers.
The S&P 500 posted 68 new 52-week highs and no new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 124 new highs and 20 new lows.
About 6.5 billion shares changed hands in U.S. exchanges, compared with the 7.8 billion daily average over the past 20 sessions.
(Reporting by Rodrigo Campos; Editing by James Dalgleish)