S&P 500 and Nasdaq hit records on positive labour-market data

Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty ImagesTraders work during the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on March 13, 2020 at Wall Street in New York City.
  • US stocks rose for the fourth straight session on Thursday as investors cheered strong economic data.
  • Weekly jobless claims dropped to 779,000 last week, landing below forecasts and marking the third week of declines.
  • GameStop, AMC, and other Reddit favourites tumbled as day traders rushed to dodge additional losses.
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US equities gained on Thursday as declining COVID-19 case counts and jobless claims fuelled a fourth straight day of market gains.

The S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite closed at record highs, lifted by rallying tech and bank stocks. The materials sector was the only one of 11 groups in the S&P 500 to decline through the session.

Investors extended the winning streak as weekly filings for unemployment benefits once again landed below estimates. New US jobless claims dropped to an unadjusted 779,000 last week, the Labour Department said Thursday. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg expected claims to total 830,000. The reading marks a third straight weekly decline in claims and the lowest reading in two months.

Continuing claims, which track Americans receiving unemployment benefits, fell to 4.7 million for the week that ended January 23. That also beat forecasts.

Here’s where US indexes stood at the 4 p.m. ET close on Thursday:


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“We aren’t anywhere close to where we were this time last year. The rollout of the vaccine will surely help Americans get back to work, but we shouldn’t expect a return to normal until late 2021 or early 2022,” Jason Reed, professor of finance at the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business, said.

The data precedes the Bureau of Labour Statistics’ Friday report on January hiring. Economists expect mild job gains through the month, marking an encouraging reversal from December’s pullback. The unemployment rate is expected to stay the same at 6.7%.

In other positive news, COVID-19 cases in the US continued to trend lower after hitting record highs just weeks ago. The country reported 116,960 cases on Wednesday, according to The COVID Tracking Project. Hospitalizations dropped to 91,440 and total deaths surpassed 440,000.

Despite the optimistic data, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen cautioned the near term will still see economic pain. The country faces “tough months ahead” and has an “urgent need” for sweeping economic stimulus, she said on Good Morning America.

GameStop and AMC tanked after gaining in Wednesday’s session. Online traders boosting the volatile names face a fork in the road, as recent price action leaves some looking to buy more and others rushing for the exit.

Apple gained after CNBC reported the tech giant is nearing a deal with Hyundai to produce an autonomous car at its US factory in Georgia. The vehicle is tentatively expected to go into production in 2024, according to the report.


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PayPal and eBay both rose after beating Wall Street estimates for quarterly earnings. Qualcomm sank after reporting figures below analyst expectations.

Dogecoin surged higher following several tweets from Elon Musk backing the meme-based cryptocurrency. The Tesla CEO called the token the “people’s crypto” early Thursday morning, later adding “no highs, no lows, only Doge.”

Bitcoin nearly retook $US39,000 in early morning trading before stabilizing above $US37,500. The token has steadily climbed this week after trading in a narrow range around $US34,000.

Gold fell below the $US1,800 support level for the first time since December 1. The precious metal sank 2.7%, to $US1,785 per ounce, at intraday lows.

The US dollar strengthened against a basket of Group-of-20 currency peers and Treasury yields ticked higher.

Oil prices continued to trend higher. West Texas Intermediate crude gained as much as 1.6%, to $US56.58 per barrel. Brent crude, oil’s international benchmark, gained 1%, to $US59.03 per barrel, at intraday highs.


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