(Reuters) - U.S. stocks rose sharply on Thursday, with the benchmark S&P 500 topping a key technical level for the second straight day, after tepid inflation data eased worries of faster interest rate hikes this year.

FILE PHOTO: People walk on Wall Street in front of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., February 6, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

The Labor Department’s consumer price index increased 0.2 percent in April, less than economists’ expectations, as rising costs for gasoline and rental accommodation were tempered by a moderation in healthcare prices.

Core CPI, which excludes food and energy components, edged up 0.1 percent in April, slower than the previous two months, and did little to alter traders’ expectations of a June rate hike. [MMT/]

“This data lends to the argument that the Fed can normalize patiently, but the flip side is that prolonged policy accommodation has yet failed to accelerate inflation,” Peter Cecchini, chief market strategist at Cantor Fitzgerald in New York, wrote in a note.

The markets, after remaining subdued in the past few weeks on fears of rising inflation and its fallout, rallied broadly with all 11 major S&P sectors posting gains.

Technology stocks were the biggest boost to the S&P 500 on Apple’s 1.4 percent rise to a record high.

The S&P 500 reclaimed its 100-day moving average for the first time since April 19. That came a day after it topped its 50-day average, a key indicator of short-term momentum.

At 12:40 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 234.65 points, or 0.96 percent, at 24,777.19, the S&P 500 was up 26.24 points, or 0.97 percent, at 2,724.03 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 65.76 points, or 0.90 percent, at 7,405.67.

CenturyLink gained 8

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