The bond and stock markets rallied Thursday after the Commerce Department reported higher-than-expected unemployment insurance claims for the week ended Jan. 4.
The Standard & Poor's bank index rose 0.29%, and the Dow Jones industrial average climbed 1.16%. The S&P 500 gained 0.86%.
Unemployment claims came in at 361,000. Economists had expected 345,000.
In addition, the Labor Department's producer price index rose a smaller- than-expected 0.1% for December, excluding food and energy prices.
Chief economist Thomas Carpenter of ASB Capital Management said the data reflected an economy growing moderately with no sign of inflation.
"Financial stocks benefit because it suggests that the Fed has reason to keep interest rates where they are or to lower them," he said.
Some of the bigger gainers of the day included superregionals or money- centers such as BankAmerica Corp., up 62.5 cents, to $98.375, and Chase Manhattan Corp., 62.5 cents, to $88.25.
NationsBank Corp. shares rose to $101.875, up 62.5 cents. The superregional's stock also was buoyed by a recent upgrading from Dean Witter Reynolds analyst Anthony Davis, who now rates it a "buy," up from "accumulate."
Credit card companies and other banks fared less well, with many of them declining throughout the day.
However, MBNA Corp. stock shot up more than 3% in early morning trading, surpassing its 52-week high on heavy volume.
It closed at $29.25, up 75 cents. Analysts said the spike in the shares of the second-largest credit card issuer could be in anticipation of strong fourth-quarter earnings.
"The company's growth has been exceptional, and their loss ratios are exceptional," said analyst Michael Granger of Fox-Pitt, Kelton Inc. "That combination is unique in that most of the issuers have seen their loss ratios go up significantly with high growth."
Mr. Granger, who has rated MBNA a "hold," said he expects its loss ratio to rise to 3.40% or 3.50% in the fourth quarter from 3.38% in the third quarter.
However, he said, he expects the average loss ratio of the 22 card companies in his universe to rise 20 to 40 basis points in the fourth quarter, from 5.02% in the third quarter.
Many analysts attributed MBNA's fast-rising stock price to its alliances with other companies to attract more customers.
It has expanded its market share significantly, said Mr. Granger.
At the end of the third quarter, MBNA credit card loans totaled $34.7 billion, behind Citicorp's $43.5 billion.