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(USA TODAY) Stocks rallied again Thursday as the S&P 500 shot up to close at a record high and the Dow reclaimed 17,000.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index gained 5.85 points, or 0.3%, to close at an all-time high of 1992.36, according to preliminary calculations, and set an intraday record of 1994.76. That tops the benchmark index's previous July 24 record close of 1987.98 and intraday high of 1991.39.

The Dow Jones industrial average gained 0.4% to 17,040, moving back above the 17,000 level for the first time since late July. This is the fourth straight day of gains for the Dow and S&P.

The Nasdaq composite index was up 0.1% to 4532. The Dow, S&P and Nasdaq are all up six of the last seven trading sessions.

STOCKS: USA TODAY's live markets blog

Driving the bullish action in the stock market today was the release of more better-than-expected economic data that point to a sustainable recovery.

The number of Americans filing for first-time jobless claims fell by 14,000 last week to 298,000, better than the 303,000 analysts expected. Manufacturing activity in the Philadelphia region hit a three-year high in August. And existing home sales in July rose 2.4% to 5.15 million units, topping forecasts of 5.02 million sales.

"The latest batch of U.S. (economic data) is broadly consistent with annualized GDP growth of around 3.5% in the third quarter," Paul Dales, senior U.S. economist at Capital Economics said in a client report. Wall Street has been waiting for the economy to get back to a steady growth clip of 3% or more for some time now.

Stocks are beginning to shrug off geopolitical worries from overseas, despite ongoing conflicts in Ukraine, Iraq and Gaza.

Instead, investors are focusing on an improving U.S. economy and strong earnings in the corporate sector.

European shares were trading higher as Britain's FTSE 100 index gained 0.3% to 6777.66 and Germany's DAX index rose 0.9% to 9401.53

Markets across Asia diverged, with Tokyo's Nikkei 225 index up 0.9% to 15,586.20 and Hong Kong's benchmark index down 0.7% to 24,994.10.

Wall Street staged a late day rally Wednesday as the S&P 500 rose 4.91 points, or 0.3%, to close at 1986.51. The Dow jumped 59.54 points, or 0.4%, to 16,979.13. But the Nasdaq fell 1.03 to close at 4526.48, breaking its five-day winning streak.

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