NEW YORK — Stocks closed higher Thursday after applications for unemployment benefits hit a four-year low and retailers reported better February sales.
Banks dodged a big hit from the Greek debt crisis and rallied Thursday to lead the market higher. A markets panel ruled that Greece's plan to restructure its debt should not trigger any bond-insurance payments yet.
JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America were among the top gainers in the Dow Jones industrial average. The Dow rose 28 points to 12,980, a gain of 0.2 percent.
The S&P 500 index rose 8 points, or 0.6 percent, to 1,374.
The Nasdaq rose 22 points, or 0.7 percent, to 2,989.
More than two stocks rose for every one that fell on the New York Stock Exchange.