The major domestic equity indexes were slightly higher in light trading on Thursday, the result of gains in the financial and tech stocks, which have begun to recover from their recent foray into negative territory.
Tech stocks added 0.1 percent and notched their second straight gain on the heels of a five-session losing skid. The index has struggled somewhat to close out the year but remains the best-performing sector in 2017, up more than 37 percent.
Apple ended the trading day up 0.3 percent after relinquishing earlier gains and Amazon edged up 0.3 percent after Reuters reported the companies are in licensing discussions with Riyadh on investing in Saudi Arabia.
Volumes remained thin due to the holiday week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. The prior two sessions showed the lowest full-day trading volumes of the year.
A 0.6 percent gain in copper prices helped lift the materials sector 0.4 percent, led by a 3.1 percent gain in Freeport-McMoRan.
The benchmark S&P 500 has climbed nearly 20 percent this year, on track to record its largest annual gain since 2013, driven in no small part by ongoing economic growth and solid corporate earnings. Look for the rally to continue into 2018, aided by gains from the recently passed tax legislation.
The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits was unchanged last week at 245,000, slightly above the 240,000 forecast, but the underlying trend remained consistent with a tightening labor market.
J.B. Hunt Transport lost 0.2 to $115.24 after the logistics services provider forecast current-quarter profit below estimates.
Approximately 4.26 billion shares changed hands on the major domestic equity exchanges, as compared to the 6.6 billion share average over the past 20 trading days.
Unemployment Claims Unchanged
The number of new claims for unemployment benefits was unchanged last week and the underlying trend remained consistent with a tightening labor market.
Approximately 245,000 initial claims for state unemployment benefits were filed during the week that ended Dec. 23, according to seasonally adjusted figures published by the Labor Department on Thursday morning.
Data for the prior week was unrevised. Since mid-October, claims have been confined to a range of 223,000 to 252,000.
Last week marked the 147th straight week that claims remained below the 300,000 threshold, 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 widely seen as near full employment, with the jobless rate at a 17-year low of 4.1 percent. Labor market tightness and a strengthening economy encouraged the Fed to increase interest rates earlier this month for a third time this year.
The economy added 228,000 jobs in November, well above the roughly 100,000 jobs per month needed to keep up with growth in the working-age population.
The Labor Department said claims-taking procedures continued to be disrupted in the Virgin Islands months after Hurricanes Irma and Maria battered the islands. The processing of claims in Puerto Rico was still not back to normal.
Last week, the four-week moving average of initial claims, which is a measure of labor market trends because it irons out week-to-week volatility, rose by 1,750 claims to a total of 237,750 claims.
The claims report also showed the number of people receiving benefits after an initial week of aid increased 7,000 to 1.94 million in the week ended Dec. 16. The four-week moving average of the so-called continuing claims fell 4,250 to 1.92 million.