* S&P 500 near 2,000; Nasdaq closes at highest since 2000
* U.S. June jobs report sharply exceeds forecasts
* PetSmart rallies as hedge fund seeks sale
* Dow up 0.5 pct; S&P 500 up 0.6 pct; Nasdaq up 0.6 pct
By Ryan Vlastelica
NEW YORK, July 3 (Reuters) - Wall Street’s holiday-shortened session ended with multiple records on Thursday, with the Dow topping 17,000 for the first time after the June jobs report came in much stronger than expected.
Both the Dow and S&P 500 ended at their third consecutive record highs. The Nasdaq closed at its highest since 2000 and rose for a third straight week. The three major indexes wrapped up a week of solid gains. Regular trading ended at 1 p.m. on the day before the Independence Day holiday, when the U.S. stock market will be closed.
The U.S. economy added 288,000 jobs in June, racing past the 212,000 that economists had expected. The U.S. unemployment rate fell to 6.1 percent, the lowest since September 2008, confirming expectations that the economy bounced back in the second quarter after a dismal start to the year.
Thursday’s gains were broad, with nine of the 10 primary S&P 500 sector indexes rising for the day. The only negative group was utilities, down 1.1 percent. The utilities sector struggled as the June jobs data suggested that the Federal Reserve may raise interest rates earlier than had previously been anticipated. Investors favor utilities in a low interest-rate environment because the sector is a dividend play.
“The report was very good and a real sign the economy is starting to take off,” said David Kelly, chief global strategist at J.P. Morgan Funds in New York, which has about $450 billion in assets under management. “That said, it isn’t an unmixed positive for the market because it suggests the Fed will consider raising rates in the first quarter.”
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 92.02 points or 0.54 percent, to 17,068.26. The S&P 500 gained 10.82 points or 0.55 percent, to 1,985.44. The Nasdaq Composite added 28.19 points or 0.63 percent, to 4,485.93.
For the week, the Dow rose 1.3 percent, the S&P 500 advanced 1.25 percent and the Nasdaq climbed 2 percent. With the week’s gains, the Nasdaq has gained for seven of the past eight weeks, rising more than 10 percent over that period.
Caterpillar, up 1.4 percent at $111.08, helped propel the Dow in its run above 17,000. The stock is the Dow’s best performer so far this year, climbing more than 20 percent. It’s on track for its best performance since 2010.
Goldman Sachs Group also ranked among the Dow’s best performers in Thursday’s short session, rising 1.5 percent to $169.46 after Susquehanna raised its target price on the stock to $193 from $188.
The Dow has underperformed other major indexes so far this year, with blue chips up about 3 percent in 2014. Both the S&P 500 and Nasdaq have gained more than 7 percent.
About 55 percent of stocks traded on the New York Stock Exchange ended higher, while 64 percent of Nasdaq-listed stocks closed in positive territory.
Volume was extremely light in the shortened session, with only 3.49 billion shares traded on all U.S. platforms, according to BATS exchange data. The five-day average is 6.29 billion.
The Dow Jones Transportation Average closed at a record 8,294.74, after hitting an intraday all-time high at 8,298.17.
PetSmart Inc was the S&P 500’s biggest gainer, jumping 12.5 percent to $67.28 in its largest one-day advance since May 2012. The rally came after activist hedge fund Jana Partners LLC said it planned to ask PetSmart to explore a sale and reported a 9.9 percent stake in the retailer.
Paccar Inc shares rose 5.4 percent to $67.25 after analysts published comments in a research note from a senior executive of Daimler, who said he heard Volkswagen was planning a bid for the truck maker, a claim that Volkswagen denied.
Regado Biosciences plummeted 58.4 percent to $2.81 after the Data Safety Monitoring Board started an unplanned review of data from a trial of its heart drug. The company said patient enrollment has been put on hold until the DSMB returns with recommendations. (Editing by Jan Paschal)