Following an early move to the upside, stocks remain mostly higher in mid-day trading on Thursday. The major averages have all climbed firmly in positive territory, with the Nasdaq and S&P 500 within striking distance of their record highs.
Currently, the major averages are hovering near their best levels of the day. The Dow is up 261.91 points or 0.9 percent at 30,985.51, the Nasdaq is up 91.80 points or 0.7 percent at 13,702.34 and the S&P 500 is up 26.43 points or 0.7 percent at 3,856.60.
The markets continue to benefit from the upward momentum seen earlier in the week, which has helped stocks largely offset the steep losses posted last week.
Easing concerns about speculative trading have helped drive the markets higher along with mostly upbeat earnings news from big-name companies.
Positive sentiment was also generated in reaction to a report from the Labor Department showing a continued decline in first-time claims for U.S. unemployment benefits in the week ended January 30th.
The report said initial jobless claims fell to 779,000, a decrease of 33,000 from the previous week’s revised level of 812,000.
Economists had expected jobless claims to edge down to 830,000 from the 847,000 originally reported for the previous week.
Jobless claims dropped for the third straight week, falling to their lowest level since hitting 716,000 in the week ended November 28th.
On Friday, the Labor Department is scheduled to release its more closely watched report on the employment situation in the month of January.
Economists currently expect employment to rise by 50,000 jobs in January after slumping by 140,000 jobs in December. The unemployment rate is expected to hold at 6.7 percent.
Traders have recently taken an optimistic view toward economic data, seeing upbeat data as a positive for the economy while seeing disappointing data as putting pressure on lawmakers to pass more stimulus.
Banking stocks continue to turn in some of the market’s best performances in mid-day trading, resulting in a 2.8 percent spike by the KBW Bank Index.
Substantial strength also remains visible among airline stocks, with the NYSE Arca Airline Index soaring by 2.7 percent to its best intraday level in almost two months.
Tobacco, brokerage and transportation stocks are also seeing notable strength, moving higher along with most of the other major sectors.
Meanwhile, gold stocks are among the few groups bucking the uptrend, resulting in a 2.6 percent slump by the NYSE Arca Gold Bugs Index.
The sell-off by gold stocks comes amid a steep drop by the price of the precious metal, with gold for April delivery plunging $45.80 to $1,789.30 an ounce.
In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region moved mostly lower during trading on Thursday. Japan’s Nikkei 225 Index slumped by 1.1 percent, while China’s Shanghai Composite Index fell by 0.4 percent.
Meanwhile, most European stocks moved to the upside on the day. The French CAC 40 Index and the German DAX Index advanced by 0.8 percent and 0.9 percent, respectively, although the U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index bucked the uptrend and edged down by 0.1 percent.
In the bond market, treasuries have climbed well off their worst levels but remain slightly lower. Subsequently, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note, which moves opposite of its price, is up by 1 basis point at 1.141 percent.
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