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Dow, S&P 500 Remain Little Changed But Nasdaq Posting Strong Gain

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While the tech-heavy Nasdaq has shown a strong move to the upside during trading on Thursday, the Dow and the S&P 500 are showing only modest moves on the day.

The Nasdaq is currently up 96.64 points or 0.9 percent at 11,108.88, back within striking distance of the record intraday high set on Monday.

Meanwhile, the S&P 500 is up just 2.90 points or 0.1 percent at 3,383.25 and the Dow is down 45.20 points or 0.2 percent at 27,931.64.

The notable advance by the Nasdaq is partly due to strong gains by tech giants such as Google parent Alphabet (GOOGL), Apple (AAPL), and Amazon (AMZN).

At the same time, a steep drop by Cisco Systems (CSCO) is weighing on the Dow, with the networking giant plunging by 10.9 percent after reporting better than expected fiscal fourth quarter results but providing disappointing guidance.

The choppy trading on Wall Street comes as traders express some uncertainty about the outlook for the markets, as the S&P 500 continues to flirt with the record high it set in February.

Traders may also be keeping an eye on developments in Washington, where Democrats and White House officials remain at an impasse over a coronavirus relief bill.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin spoke on Wednesday, but both sides came out of the conversation blaming the other for a lack of progress.

President Donald Trump, who has taken unprecedented action to circumvent Congress due to the impasse, claimed "the bill's not going to happen" during a press briefing.

The ongoing stalemate over a new stimulus bill has raised concerns the economic recovery implied by recent data could stall.

Before the start of trading, the Labor Department released a report showing first-time claims for U.S. unemployment benefits declined by much more than anticipated in the week ended August 8th.

The Labor Department said initial jobless claims tumbled to 963,000, a decrease of 228,000 from the previous week's revised level of 1.191 million.

Economists had expected jobless claims to slide to 1.120 million from the 1.186 million originally reported for the previous week.

With the much bigger than expected decrease, jobless claims dropped below 1 million for the first time since the week ended March 14th.

"The drop in claims reflects economic reopening, but it also suggests the expiration of federal supplemental unemployment benefits may have convinced some people to stop collecting and find work," said Chris Low, Chief Economist at FHN Financial.

He added, "Alternatively, people could be falling off rolls because they no longer qualify for assistance in the absence of the emergency expansion of eligibility."

Sector News

Most of the major sectors continue to show only modest moves in mid-day, although substantial strength remains visible among gold stocks. Reflecting the strength in the gold sector, the NYSE Arca Gold Bugs Index has surged up by 3.6 percent.

The rally by gold stocks comes as the price of the precious metal has turned higher over the course of the day, with gold for December delivery climbing $8.20 to $1957.20 an ounce after hitting a low of $1,923 an ounce.

Software stocks are also seeing continued strength, extending the rebound seen in the previous session. After ending Wednesday's trading up by 2 percent, the Dow Jones U.S. Software Index is advancing by 1.5 percent.

On the other hand, oil service socks have moved sharply lower over the course of the session, resulting in a 2.5 percent nosedive by the Philadelphia Oil Service Index.

The weakness in the oil service sector comes as the price of crude oil for September delivery is slipping $0.26 to $42.41 a barrel after jumping $1.06 to $42.67 a barrel on Wednesday.

Natural gas, banking, and computer hardware stocks are also seeing notable weakness, offsetting the strength in the aforementioned sectors.

Other Markets

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region turned in another mixed performance during trading on Thursday. Japan's Nikkei 225 Index jumped by 1.8 percent, while Australia's S&P/ASX 200 Index slid by 0.7 percent.

Meanwhile, the major European markets all moved to the downside on the day. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index slumped by 1.5 percent, the French CAC 40 Index and the German DAX Index fell by 0.6 percent and 0.5 percent, respectively.

In the bond market, treasuries are seeing modest weakness, extending a recent downward trend. As a result, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note, which moves opposite of its price, is up by 1.2 basis points at 0.682 percent.

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