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Dow, S&P 500 Close Higher But Nasdaq Posts Modest Loss - U.S. Commentary

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Stocks turned in a relatively lackluster performance during trading on Thursday, with the major averages ending the day on opposite sides of the unchanged line. Despite the choppy trading, the Dow and the S&P 500 reached their best closing levels in nearly six months.

The Dow climbed 166.50 points or 0.6 percent to 26,384.63 and the S&P 500 rose 5.99 points or 0.2 percent to 2,879.39, while the Nasdaq edged down 3.77 points or 0.1 percent to 7,891.78.

The mixed performance on Wall Street comes as traders awaited news on the U.S.-China trade front as well as the release of the monthly jobs report.

The markets have recently benefited from optimistic reports regarding progress in U.S.-China trade talks, although traders may be waiting for more concrete developments.

Traders are likely to keep an eye on any news out of a meeting between President Donald Trump and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He later today.

The looming monthly jobs report also kept traders on the sidelines, with the Labor Department scheduled to release the March data on Friday.

A day ahead of the release of the more closely watched monthly data, the Labor Department released a report showing initial jobless claims slipped to their lowest level in nearly 50 years in the week ended March 30th.

The report said initial jobless claims dipped to 202,000, a decrease of 10,000 from the previous week's revised level of 212,000.

The drop surprised economists, who had expected jobless claims to inch up to 216,000 from the 211,000 originally reported for the previous week.

With the unexpected decrease, initial jobless claims fell to their lowest level since hitting a matching number in December of 1969.

Sector News

Most of the major sectors ended the day showing only modest moves, although substantial strength was visible among gold stocks. Reflecting the strength in the gold sector, the NYSE Arca Gold Bugs Index surged up by 2.7 percent.

The rally by gold stocks came despite a modest decrease by the precious metal, as gold for June delivery edged down $1 to $1,294.30 an ounce.

Housing stocks also showed a strong move to the upside on the day, driving the Philadelphia Housing Sector Index up by 1.3 percent to a seven-month closing high.

Chemical and natural gas stocks also saw considerable strength, while notable weakness among software and biotechnology contributed to the modest drop by the tech-heavy Nasdaq.

Other Markets

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region turned in a mixed performance during trading on Thursday. Japan's Nikkei 225 Index inched up by 0.1 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index dipped by 0.2 percent.

The major European markets also ended the day mixed. While the German DAX Index rose by 0.3 percent, the French CAC 40 Index edged down by 0.1 percent and the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index slipped by 0.2 percent.

In the bond market, treasuries turned in a lackluster performance being ending the session roughly flat. As a result, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note, which moves opposite of its price, edged down by less than a basis point to 2.512 percent.

Looking Ahead

Reaction to the Labor Department's highly anticipated report on the employment situation in the month of March is likely to drive trading on Friday.

Employment is expected to jump by 180,000 jobs in March after inching up by just 20,000 jobs in February, while the unemployment rate is expected to hold at 3.8 percent.

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