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Stocks Move Modestly Higher In Morning Trading - U.S. Commentary


Stocks have moved modestly higher in morning trading on Thursday following the mixed performance seen in the previous session. The major averages have all moved to the upside, although buying interest has remained somewhat subdued.

Currently, the tech-heavy Nasdaq is outperforming its counterparts. The Nasdaq is up 44.45 points or 0.7 percent at 6,820.83, while the Dow is up 40.12 points or 0.2 percent at 24,181.03 and the S&P 500 is up 5.73 points or 0.2 percent at 2,635.00.

The strength on Wall Street may reflect optimism about lawmakers passing a short-term spending bill to avoid a government shutdown.

With a Friday deadline looming, the House is expected to vote later in the day on a "continuing resolution" that funds the government until December 22nd.

The two-week extension would provide lawmakers with additional time to negotiate a longer-term government spending bill.

Meanwhile, traders continue to express some uncertainty about the details of the final Republican tax reform bill.

The Senate voted 51 to 47 on Wednesday in favor of a motion to go to a conference committee with the House. The vote came down strictly along party lines.

Senate and House lawmakers will need to reach an agreement addressing significant differences between their two bills.

Traders are likely to pay close attention to how the final bill deals with the corporate alternative minimum tax, which the House bill eliminates but the Senate bill maintains.

In economic news, the Labor Department released a report unexpectedly showing a modest decrease in first-time claims for U.S. unemployment benefits in the week ended December 2nd.

The report said initial jobless claims edged down to 236,000, a decrease of 2,000 from the previous week's unrevised level of 238,000. The drop surprised economists, who had expected jobless claims to inch up to 240,000.

Later in the day, the Federal Reserve is due to release its report on consumer credit in the month of October. Consumer credit is expected to increase by $17.5 billion.

Electronic storage stocks have shown a strong move to the upside on the day, driving the NYSE Arca Disk Drive Index up by 1.5 percent. Quantum (QTM) and Micron Technology (MU) are posting standout gains.

Internet, brokerage, and semiconductor stocks are also seeing notable strength, while most of the other major sectors are showing more modest moves.

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region moved mostly higher during trading on Thursday. Japan's Nikkei 225 Index surged up by 1.5 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index climbed by 0.3 percent.

Meanwhile, the major European markets are turning in a mixed performance on the day. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index is down by 0.2 percent, the French CAC 40 Index is up by 0.1 percent and the German DAX Index is up by 0.3 percent.

In the bond market, treasuries are showing a lack of direction after moving notably higher over the two previous sessions. As a result, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note, which moves opposite of prices, is down by less than a basis point at 2.328 percent.

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