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Major Averages Finish Volatile Session Firmly Positive - U.S. Commentary


Following the mixed performance seen in the previous session, stocks fluctuated over the course of the trading day on Thursday. The major averages bounced back and forth across the unchanged line before closing firmly in positive territory.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq closed higher for the fifth consecutive session, climbing 31.30 points or 0.4 percent to 7,427.95. The Dow also rose 93.85 points or 0.4 percent to 24,895.21, and the S&P 500 advanced 12.17 points or 0.5 percent to 2,738.97.

The higher close on Wall Street came after President Donald Trump signed proclamations imposing tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.

Trump announced last week that he planned to impose a 25 percent tariff on steel imports and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum imports.

In remarks at a signing ceremony, Trump argued unfair trade practices and industrial policies of other countries pose a threat to U.S. national security.

The president noted the U.S. would be open to modifying or removing the tariffs on certain countries if they can agree on alternate means to resolve trade inequities.

At a Cabinet meeting earlier in the day, Trump suggested that countries such as Canada, Mexico, and Australia could be exempt from the tariffs.

The choppy trading seen for much of the day came as traders looked ahead to the release of the Labor Department's closely watched monthly jobs report on Friday.

Employment is expected to jump by 200,000 jobs in February, matching the increase seen in January. The unemployment rate is expected to dip to 4.0 percent from 4.1 percent.

Ahead of the monthly report, the Labor Department released a report this morning showing a bigger than expected rebound in initial jobless claims in the week ended March 3rd.

The report said initial jobless claims climbed to 231,000, an increase of 21,000 from the previous week's unrevised level of 210,000. Economists had expected jobless claims to rise to 220,000.

The bigger than expected increase came after jobless claims fell to their lowest level since December of 1969 in the previous week.

Traders were also digesting the European Central Bank's latest monetary policy decision, with the ECB leaving rates unchanged, as widely expected.

The ECB's accompanying statement removed a phrase indicating a willingness to increase its asset purchase program if necessary.

Sector News

Most of the major sectors showed only modest moves on the day, although considerable strength was visible among tobacco stocks.

Reflecting the strength in the tobacco sector, the Dow Jones Tobacco Index jumped by 1.8 percent to a record closing high.

Pharmaceutical stocks also showed a notable move to the upside, resulting in a 1.2 percent gain by the NYSE Arca Pharmaceutical Index.

On the other hand, steel stocks saw significant weakness on the day, dragging the NYSE Arca Steel Index down by 1.8 percent. The index fell to its lowest closing level in almost a month.

Other Markets

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region moved mostly higher during trading on Thursday. Japan's Nikkei 225 Index rose by 0.5 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index surged up by 1.5 percent.

The major European markets also moved to the upside on the day. While the French CAC 40 Index jumped by 1.3 percent, the German DAX Index advanced by 0.9 percent and the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index climbed by 0.6 percent.

In the bond market, treasuries gave back ground in afternoon trading but still closed in positive territory. As a result, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note, which moves opposite of its price, dipped by 1.7 basis points to 2.866 percent.

Looking Ahead

The monthly jobs report is likely to be in focus on Friday, overshadowing a report on wholesale trade and comments by some Federal Reserve officials.

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