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S&P 500 Reaches Record High On Initial Jump

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After moving sharply higher at the open, stocks have remained firmly in positive territory over the course of morning trading on Thursday. With the initial jump, the S&P 500 reached a new record intraday high.

The major averages have pulled back off their best levels but are currently holding on to notable gains. The Dow is up 188.42 points or 0.7 percent at 26,692.42, the Nasdaq is up 58.43 points or 0.7 percent at 8,045.75 and the S&P 500 is up 20.41 points or 0.7 percent at 2,946.87.

The surge at the start of trading came as traders continued to react positively to the Federal Reserve's monetary policy announcement on Wednesday.

The Fed left interest rates unchanged as widely expected but signaled that the next change in interest rates is likely to be a rate cut.

While the Fed did not provide a specific time frame for lowering rates, CME Group's FedWatch Tool shows the markets are pricing in a rate cut at the next monetary policy meeting in late July.

The FedWatch Tool currently indicates a 63.6 percent chance for a 25 basis point rate cut and a 36.4 percent chance for a 50 basis point rate cut.

Traders are likely to closely watch incoming economic data in the weeks leading up to the meeting for clues about the potential for lower rates.

The Labor Department released a report this morning a modest decrease in first-time claims for U.S. unemployment benefits in the week ended June 15th.

The report said initial jobless claims dipped to 216,000, a decrease of 6,000 from the previous week's unrevised level of 222,000. Economists had expected jobless claims to edge down to 220,000.

Meanwhile, the Labor Department said the less volatile four-week moving average inched up to 218,750, an increase of 1,000 from the previous week's unrevised average of 217,750.

A separate report from the Philadelphia Federal Reserve showed regional manufacturing activity was nearly stagnant in the month of June.

The Philly Fed said its index for current general activity tumbled to 0.3 in June from 16.6 in May. While a positive reading still indicates growth in regional manufacturing activity, economists had expected the index to slip to 11.0.

With the much bigger than expected decrease, the Philly Fed Index fell to its lowest level since turning negative in February.

Extending the jump seen in the previous session, gold stocks have shown a substantial move to the upside in morning trading. Reflecting the strength in the sector, the NYSE Arca Gold Bugs Index has surged up by 4.2 percent.

The rally by gold stocks comes amid a sharp increase by the price of the precious metal, with gold for August delivery soaring $36.90 to $1,385.70 an ounce.

Similarly, energy stocks are also seeing considerable strength amid a spike by the price of crude oil, as crude for July delivery is surging up $2.50 to $56.26 a barrel.

Computer hardware, software, semiconductor, and housing stocks are also moving notably higher amid broad based buying interest.

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region moved mostly higher during trading on Thursday. Japan's Nikkei 225 Index climbed by 0.6 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index jumped by 1.2 percent.

The major European markets have also moved to the upside on the day. While the German DAX Index has advanced by 0.9 percent, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index is up by 0.8 percent and the French CAC 40 Index is up by 0.7 percent.

In the bond market, treasuries have moved notably higher, dragging the yield on the benchmark ten-year note below 2 percent for the first time in well over two years. The yield on the ten-year note, which moves opposite of its price, is down by 4.3 basis points at 1.986 percent.

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