NEW YORK - Stocks rose for the fifth time in six days yesterday after analysts raised their ratings on banks and oil prices rose again, making energy firms look increasingly attractive. Investors also were more optimistic after the government reported that the number of workers continuing to receive jobless benefits unexpectedly fell for the first time in 20 weeks.
The data arrived a day ahead of the government's monthly tally of job losses. The unemployment rate stood at a 25-year high of 8.9 percent in April and economists expect it will rise to 9.2 percent when the May report is issued today.
Investors are looking for any sign that unemployment is ebbing because that could help shore up consumer spending, retail sales, and the housing market.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 75.00, or 0.86 percent, to 8,750.24. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 10.70, or 1.15 percent, to 942.46, and the Nasdaq composite rose 24.10, or 1.32 percent, to 1,850.02.
Banks got a boost after RBC Capital Markets Corp. analysts said the worst of the financial crisis was over. The KBW Bank index, which tracks 24 of the nation's largest banks, rose 4.8 percent.
KeyCorp jumped 90 cents, or 19.57 percent, to $5.50 after an upgrade from RBC, while the Goldman Sachs Group Inc. rose $7.32, or 5.15 percent, to $149.47 after a Bernstein Research analyst raised his rating.
The improved data on unemployment and a weak dollar helped push oil prices to fresh highs for the year. Oil and other commodities have been rallying on expectations that an improving economy will lift demand.
Light, sweet crude settled at $68.81 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange after climbing to $69.56, its highest level since November.
That helped energy companies. Anadarko Petroleum Corp. rose $1.52, or 3.23 percent, to $48.57, while Occidental Petroleum Corp. advanced $1.75, or 2.62 percent, to $68.62.
In other trading, the Russell 2000 index of smaller companies rose 8.97, or 1.72 percent, to 531.68.