The major equity indexes were relatively flat on Thursday as investors looked forward to the second-quarter earnings season.; The S&P healthcare index rose 1 percent on Thursday, hitting its fifth consecutive record close following the release of Senate Republicans’ bill to replace Obamacare, while financial and consumer staple shares ended lower.
The legislation aims at curbing Medicaid funding and reshaping subsidies to low-income people for private insurance. The index has risen 3.9 percent in five days.
The Nasdaq biotechnology index rose 1.3 percent, for a 9.4 percent increase this week. While it was not clear whether the bill would get enough support to become law, drug stocks were among the S&P 500’s biggest gainers, with Gilead rising 4.4 percent on Thursday.
The S&P energy index ended down 0.1 percent after recording 3.5 percent of losses in the previous three sessions on falling oil prices.
The S&P bank index was down 0.6 percent ahead of the release of the sector’s annual stress test results, released after the market close. Bank shares remained unchanged after the news.
The consumer staples sector ended down 0.7 percent and was the second-biggest drag on the S&P behind financials.
Economic data on Thursday indicated jobless claims for last week increased by 3,000 to 241,000 claims, but remain at levels consistent with a tight labor market.
Oracle’s 8.6 percent rise to $50.30 provided the S&P with its largest upward push after Oracle forecast an upbeat current-quarter profit.
Accenture fell 3.9 percent after the consulting and outsourcing services provider trimmed its annual revenue forecast.
Tesla was up 1.6 percent at $382.61 after the company said it was in exploratory talks with the Shanghai municipal government to establish an electric vehicle manufacturing plant in China.
Approximately 6.65 billion shares changed hands on the major domestic equity exchanges, as compared to 6.95 billion share average ovewr the last 20 tading sessions.
Jobless Claims Rise
The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits increased slightly last week, but remains at levels consistent with a tight labor market. According to a labor Department report released Thursday morning, Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased by 3,000 claims to a seasonally adjusted 241,000 claims for the week ended June 17.
Jobless claims for the prior week were revised upwards by 1,000 claims to 238,000 claims from 237,000 claims. The week’s calculation indicates that this is the 120th consecutive week with claims below 300,000, the threshold associated with a strong labor market. It’s the longest stretch that claims have remained below that level since 1970.
The four-week moving average of claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends as it removes much of the week-to-week volatility, rose by 1,500 claims to 244,750 claims last week, the highest since early April. The labor market is now considered by many to be at or near full employment. The unemployment rate in May declined to a 16-year low of 4.3 percent.
Indeed, some policymakers at the Fed have begun to show increasing concern that a recent pullback in inflation may point to sustained difficulty in returning it to the Fed’s 2 percent target.
Thursday’s claims report also showed the number of people still receiving benefits after an initial week of aid increased 8,000 to 1.94 million in the week ended June 10. The so-called continuing claims have now been below 2 million for 10 straight weeks, indicating diminishing labor market slack.
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