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Wall Street ekes out gain as weekly jobless claims fall

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. stocks advanced slightly on Thursday, as data showing improvement in the labor market helped bolster expectations in the economic recovery and spurred a minor rotation towards stocks seen as more likely to benefit from the rebound.

The number of Americans filing new unemployment claims dropped more than expected last week to a 14-month low of 406,000 as pandemic restrictions continue to be lifted, while a separate report showed business spending on equipment picked up speed.

Graphic: U.S. jobless claims,

The data helped lift U.S. Treasury yields, with the benchmark 10-year note reaching a high of 1.625% and denting the attractiveness of higher-growth names in areas such as technology while helping those seen as more likely to benefit from an improving economy such as financials and small caps.

Still, the 10-year yield remained within the range it has been in for several days, which served to keep inflation concerns in check and limited the rotation within sectors.

Investors have been closely watching economic data and comments from Federal Reserve officials for signs of runaway inflation and the possibility the central bank may begin to pull back on its massive stimulus measures.

“When you look at the jobless claims that actually shows we’re continuing to make progress, if we get a strong jobs report in the next release that’s going to provide some support, until then there’s uncertainty so I don’t think there’s a lot of momentum either way,” said Brad McMillan, chief investment officer for Commonwealth Financial Network, in Waltham, Mass.

“We’ve had the Fed come out and say we’re going to continue to support things but now we’re starting to be a little bit nervous, that’s obviously a headwind.”

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 Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 141.59 points, or 0.41%, to 34,464.64, the S&P 500 gained 4.89 points, or 0.12%, to 4,200.88 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 1.72 points, or 0.01%, to 13,736.28.

Weighed down by weakness in tech shares, the Nasdaq underperformed the Dow and S&P.

U.S. planemaker Boeing climbed 3.87% to lead the Dow higher after its European rival Airbus outlined an almost two-fold increase in production, citing a strong recovery in aviation from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Boeing supplier General Electric jumped 7.09% and the two were the biggest boost to the S&P industrials, the best performing sector on the day.

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

Fed officials have repeatedly maintained in recent days that the central bank is not ready to adjust its monetary support, although some have suggested they are open to begin discussing the reduction of its bond-buying plan. On Thursday, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas President Robert Kaplan said the labor market is tighter than many realize.

Nvidia Corp forecast second-quarter revenue above analysts’ estimates, but shares fell 1.35% as the chipmaker could not say for certain how much of its recent revenue rise was driven by the volatile cryptocurrency-mining market.

Volume on U.S. exchanges was 12.48 billion shares, compared with the 10.52 billion average for the full session over the last 20 trading days.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 1.85-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.95-to-1 ratio favored advancers.

The S&P 500 posted 32 new 52-week highs and one new low; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 121 new highs and 22 new lows.

Reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; Additional reporting by Sinéad Carew in New York; Editing by Lisa Shumaker

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