Stocks mostly higher as Dow, S&P 500 seek new records

Initial jobless claims totaled 198,000

U.S. stocks traded mostly higher Thursday after Wall Street hit new highs and new daily U.S. coronavirus cases surged to a record.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 74 points, or 0.13%, while S&P 500 rose 0.15%. The Nasdaq Composite traded near the flatline.

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Wall Street gained Wednesday for its 70th record high of 2021, but optimism was tempered by data showing new U.S. virus cases have risen to an average of 265,000 per day, driven largely by the more contagious omicron variant.

On Thursday, traders will examine reports on the labor market and regional manufacturing, the last economic data points of the year.

The Labor Department is out with its tally of new claims for unemployment benefits for last week. Applications for initial jobless claims for the week ending Dec. 25 totaled 198,000, down from a revised 206,000 the prior week, according to Labor Department data released Thursday. Analysts surveyed by Refinitiv were expecting 208,000 total claims.

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The Institute for Supply Management is out with its Chicago Purchasing Managers’ index for December. The closely watched gauge of Midwest business activity is anticipated to inch up to 62.0, up from a 9-month low of 61.8 in November amid a slowdown in new orders. A reading of 50 is the dividing line between an expanding and contracting manufacturing sector.

In Europe, London's FTSE was up 0.1%, Germany's DAX added 0.1% and France's CAC gained 0.3%.

In Asia, he Nikkei 225 in Tokyo shed 0.4%, finishing the year with a gain of 4.9%.

The Hang Seng in Hong Kong advanced 0.1% and China's Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.6%.

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
I:DJI DOW JONES AVERAGES 35911.81 -201.81 -0.56%
SP500 S&P 500 4662.85 +3.82 +0.08%
I:COMP NASDAQ COMPOSITE INDEX 14893.75271 +86.94 +0.59%

Wall Street's benchmark S&P 500 index rose 0.1% to 4,793.06. The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 0.2% to 36,488.63. The Nasdaq composite slipped 0.1% to 15,766.22.

The S&P 500 is on track for a gain of more than 27% in 2021. The benchmark, which also set records on Monday and on Dec. 23, hit more new highs in 2021 than in any year since the 77 in 1954. 

Samsung denied a media report that said the South Korean firm was in talks to buy drugmaker Biogen, sending that company's shares 9.5% higher. Biogen shares are giving back 6% in the premarket.

Trading was lighter as investors closed out positions for the year. Fewer than 3 billion shares traded hands on the New York Stock Exchange compared with a typical daily average of 4.5 billion.

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In energy markets, benchmark U.S. crude lost 63 cents to $75.92 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract advanced 58 cents to $76.56 on Wednesday. Brent crude, the price basis for international oils, lost 46 cents to $78.77 per barrel in London. It closed 29 cents higher the previous session at $79.23.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.