S&P 500, Dow inch higher as weekly jobless claims dip

(Reuters) – The S&P 500 and the Dow rose on Thursday, helped by economy-linked stocks after data showing fewer weekly jobless claims bolstered optimism about a U.S. economic recovery.

FILE PHOTO: People are seen on Wall Street outside the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, U.S., March 19, 2021. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

The number of Americans filing new claims for jobless benefits stayed below 500,000 for a third straight week, the Labor Department’s report showed. A separate report showed a 6.4% annualized U.S. GDP growth rate last quarter, keeping the economy on track to pull above its pre-pandemic level this quarter.

Financials, energy and materials provided the biggest boost to the S&P 500, as they tend to outperform when economic prospects brighten.

“We expect to see continuing trends of lower jobless claims and have a keen eye on the (personal consumption expenditures) data today and tomorrow that could show further growth in consumption, aiding prospects of a faster economic recovery,” said Robert Pavlik, senior portfolio manager, Dakota Wealth, New York.

But unless economic data “really shocks on the upside, we might not see too much change in market going into the long weekend,” Pavlik added.

Worries about rising inflation and a potential tightening of policy have weighed on Wall Street’s main indexes in May, with the benchmark S&P 500 on course for its smallest monthly gain in four.

Those concerns, however, eased this week as a number of Fed officials said the central bank would maintain its dovish stance, even as they acknowledged they were closer to debating reining in support.

Investors will now look out for the PCE report due on Friday as it is the central bank’s preferred inflation measure for its 2% long-term target.

At 9:43 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 259.35 points, or 0.76%, at 34,582.40 and the S&P 500 was up 14.50 points, or 0.35%, at 4,210.49. The Nasdaq Composite was down 13.68 points, or 0.10%, at 13,724.31.

Strategists expect the S&P 500 to end the year at about 4,300, according to a Reuters poll. The benchmark index is currently less than 1% away from its record high of 4,238.04 points.

U.S. planemaker Boeing added about 3.8% after its European rival Airbus outlined an almost two-fold increase in production, citing a strong recovery in aviation from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nvidia Corp forecast second-quarter revenue above analysts’ estimates, but its shares fell 1% as the company could not say for certain how much of its recent revenue rise was driven by the volatile cryptocurrency-mining market.

Best Buy Co gained 2.6% after it raised its full-year comparable sales forecast as stimulus checks boosted demand.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 2.37-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and by a 1.65-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 14 new 52-week highs and one new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 48 new highs and seven new lows.

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