Wall St rises as jobless claims fall; Cigna weighs on healthcare stocks

4 minute read

Signage is seen on the trading floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., August 4, 2021. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

  • Layoffs at lowest in over 21 years
  • Robinhood set to snap four-day winning streak
  • Healthcare sole sectoral loser on the S&P 500
  • Indexes up: Dow 0.59%, S&P 0.43%, Nasdaq 0.62%

Aug 5 (Reuters) - U.S. stock indexes rose on Thursday after data showed fewer Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week, while a decline in shares of health insurer Cigna dragged healthcare stocks lower.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits fell by 14,000 to 385,000 in the week ended July 31, while layoffs dropped to their lowest level in more than 21 years last month as companies held on to their workers amid a labor shortage, the Labor Department's report showed. read more

"Investors are appreciating the fact that it is unlikely for the U.S. to go into another shutdown and with economic growth in full steam and interest rates at such lows interest towards equities seems intact," said Arthur Weise, chief investment officer of Kingsland Growth Advisors.

Focus will now shift to the jobs report for July on Friday. Analysts say a disappointing number might raise questions about an economic recovery, but it could also lead the Federal Reserve to remain accommodative.

Meanwhile, Robinhood Markets Inc (HOOD.O) plunged 13.2% and was set to snap a four-day rally fueled by interest from retail traders. read more

"I think Robinhood is the latest stock in the retail Reddit crowd has embraced, but the question remains how long will it last," said Weise.

Ten of the 11 major S&P 500 sector indexes were higher in early afternoon trading, with only healthcare stocks (.SPXHC) in the red as Cigna Corp (CI.N) tumbled 12.4% after predicting a bigger hit to full-year earnings from the pandemic. read more

ViacomCBS Inc (VIAC.O) jumped 6.5% as the company said it signed up the highest number of new streaming subscribers in the second quarter, and struck a multi-year deal with Comcast Corp's (CMCSA.O) Sky to launch the Paramount+ streaming service in Europe. read more

At 11:54 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (.DJI) was up 205.61 points, or 0.59%, at 34,998.28, the S&P 500 (.SPX) was up 18.85 points, or 0.43%, at 4,421.51 and the Nasdaq Composite (.IXIC) was up 92.02 points, or 0.62%, at 14,872.55.

Concerns about the pace of economic growth and higher inflation have pressured the S&P 500 index, but stellar corporate earnings so far have put it on track to end the week higher. The index is now flirting with a record closing high.

Fed Vice Chair Richard Clarida, a major architect of the central bank's new policy strategy, said on Wednesday he felt the conditions for raising interest rates could be met by the end of 2022. read more

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 2.37-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and by a 2.17-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 43 new 52-week highs and four new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 92 new highs and 81 new lows.

Reporting by Shreyashi Sanyal and Shashank Nayar in Bengaluru; Editing by Aditya Soni and Maju Samuel

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