S&P 500, Dow hit record highs after upbeat jobless claims data

WThe S&P 500 and the Dow indexes hit all-time highs on Thursday as worries about rising inflation subsided, while a bigger-than-expected fall in weekly jobless claims reinforced expectations of a labor market recovery.

Mega-cap stocks Apple Inc, Microsoft Corp, Facebook Inc and Tesla Inc gained between 2.2% and 3.6%, recouping losses from a recent pullback and helping the benchmark S&P 500 surpass its Feb. 16 peak of 3,950.43.

The blue-chip Dow hit an all-time high for the fourth straight session, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq is now about 5% below its Feb. 12 record close after slumping as much as 12% from that level last week.

Fewer than expected Americans filed new claims for unemployment benefits last week as an improving public health environment allows more segments of the economy to reopen.

“The drop in jobless claims is another win for the week, and a solid sign that we’re making some strides toward pre-pandemic life,” said Mike Loewengart, managing director of investment strategy at E*TRADE Financial.

The benchmark Treasury yields were at 1.53% but below 1.6% ahead of an auction of U.S. 30-year debt later in the day. A weak seven-year auction in late February fueled inflation concerns and sent yields higher.Meanwhile, data showed fewer Americans filed new claims for unemployment benefits last week amid falling COVID-19 infections, but the near-term outlook still remained unclear after winter storms wreaked havoc in the South region in the middle of this month.

Optimism about more U.S. stimulus and a quicker pace of vaccinations at the beginning of the month have positioned the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones indexes for their best monthly gain since November.

However, the lack of significant new developments around the fiscal package and the winding down of the earnings season have caused uncertainty in the market.

“In the beginning of February, the stimulus news was the driving force but now that it has been priced in, there is nothing on the distant horizon for equity investors to be excited about and there is a concern that upside is limited,” said Mike Zigmont, head of trading and research at Harvest Volatility Management.

At 12:27 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 341.74 points, or 1.07%, at 31,620.12, the S&P 500 was down 61.80 points, or 1.57%, at 3,863.63 and the Nasdaq Composite was down 328.82 points, or 2.42%, at 13,269.15.

Tesla Inc fell 5.04% after a media report that the electric-car maker told workers it would temporarily halt some production at its car assembly plant in California.

Best Buy Co Inc slid 9.66% on a weak full-year forecast after missing estimates for holiday-quarter comparable sales.

Moderna Inc jumped 5.37% after the drugmaker said it was expecting to post $18.4 billion in sales from its COVID-19 vaccine this year.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers for a 3.57-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and a 3.77-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 70 new 52-week highs and no new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 190 new highs and eight new lows.

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