Summary

The major domestic equity indexes ended the trading higher on Thursday, buoyed by popular technology companies including Facebook and Alphabet, while shares of Lululemon Athletica also worked up a sweat.

Facebook rose 2.31 percent, while Google parent-company Alphabet added 1.23 percent, helping the S&P 500 end higher after the index lost ground for four straight sessions.

The top-performing sector this year, the S&P 500 information technology index had fallen nearly 3 percent since Nov. 28, with some investors cautious about high earnings multiples.

Lululemon rose 6.43 percent after the Canadian apparel maker reported a higher-than-expected earnings number and gave an upbeat holiday season forecast.

General Electric was up about 0.3 percent after the industrial conglomerate said it was cutting 12,000 jobs at its global power business.

Nine of the 11 major S&P 500 sectors were higher for the day, with industrial and materials indexes leading the parade.

The S&P 500 consumer staples index fell 0.93 percent, hurt by declines of at least 1.2 percent in Procter & Gamble, PepsiCo, and Coca-Cola.

LendingClub fell 15.53 percent after the online lender lowered its quarterly revenue forecast.

The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell last week, suggesting a rapid tightening of the labor market. The report comes ahead of more comprehensive government payrolls data on Friday that would be used by investors to gauge the strength of the labor market at a time when the Fed is likely to raise interest rates next week.

Approximately 6.4 billion shares changed hands on the major domestic equity exchanges, a number that was below the 6.6 billion share daily average for the past 20 trading days, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Unemployment Claims Fall Again

The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits was down again last in an unexpected decline, suggesting a rapid tightening of the labor market. At the same time, another report on Thursday indicated that announced rose to a seven-month high in November, although the overall trend in job cuts remained low.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits fell by 2,000 claims to seasonally adjusted 236,000 claims for the week ended Dec. 2, the Labor Department said on Thursday. It was the third straight weekly decline in claims.

Last week marked the 144th straight week that claims remained below 300,000, which is associated with a strong labor market. That is the longest such stretch since 1970, when the labor market was smaller.

The labor market is near full employment, with the jobless rate at a 17-year low of 4.1 percent. Labor market tightness is seen encouraging the Fed to hike interest rates at the Dec. 12-13 policy meeting.

Job growth in October was increased as a result of the return to work of thousands of employees, mostly in low-wage industries like hospitality and retail, who had been temporarily dislocated by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

A Labor Department official said claims-taking procedures continued to be disrupted in the Virgin Islands months after Hurricanes Irma and Maria battered the islands. He said claims processing in Puerto Rico was still not back to normal. The Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico are not included in the monthly payrolls report.

Last week, the four-week moving average of initial claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, edged down 750 to 241,500.

The claims report also showed the number of people receiving benefits after an initial week of aid fell 52,000 to 1.91 million in the week ended Nov. 25. The four-week moving average of the so-called continuing claims rose 1,000 to 1.91 million.

In a separate report, global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas said U.S.-based employers announced plans to cut payrolls by 35,038 jobs in November.

That was the most in seven months and was up 17 percent from October. The trend in layoffs, however, remains low. Employers have announced 386,347 job cuts through November, down 22 percent compared to the same period last year and the lowest since 1997.