Bank’s steps to lift economy in Europe also boost S&P 500

New steps from the European Central Bank to revive the region’s flagging economy gave markets a lift Thursday, pushing the Standard & Poor’s 500 index to another record high.

In the U.S. market, the gains were broad but modest. All 10 industries in the S&P 500 crept higher, led by industrial companies and banks.

The ECB cut two key interest rates, pushing one of them below zero. The unusual move means that the ECB will charge banks to hold their money, instead of paying them interest. The goal is to arm-twist banks into lending money rather than stockpiling it.

Mario Draghi, the ECB’s president, said the bank was willing to take more steps to support the region’s economy if needed.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 12.58 points, or 0.7 percent, to close at 1,940.46.

High-speed trading using computers leads SEC to act

The Securities and Exchange Commission is embarking on a broad plan to tackle growing concerns about the impact of high-speed computer-based trading on equity markets.

In a speech Thursday, SEC Chair Mary Jo White outlined new rules and regulations that aim to boost market stability and fairness, enhance transparency and improve markets for smaller companies. “The computer-driven trading environment may be working against investors rather than for them,” said White, who has led the SEC since April 2013.

Among the proposed measures is a rule intended to curb aggressive short-term tactics when the market is especially volatile. White also wants to see private high-frequency traders registered as dealers, a change that would bring them under SEC oversight.

Jobless aid applications up slightly, a good hiring sign

Slightly more Americans sought unemployment benefits last week, but claims for jobless aid continue to be anchored near seven-year lows.

The Labor Department said Thursday that weekly applications for unemployment benefits rose 8,000 to a seasonally adjusted 312,000. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, fell to 310,250. That’s the lowest average since June 2007.

Applications are a proxy for layoffs, so the running average suggests employers are letting fewer workers go and they may also step up hiring. That is a positive sign ahead of May’s jobs report to be released Friday and indicates steady hiring in the months ahead.

Reversing mortgage trend, 30-year rate rises to 4.14%

Average U.S. rates on fixed mortgages rose slightly this week, reversing a five-week downward trend.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the average rate for a 30-year loan edged up to 4.14 percent from 4.12 percent last week. The average for the 15-year mortgage climbed to 3.23 percent from 3.21 percent.

— From news service reports