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Wall Street pushes stocks, oil higher on promising data

by Jessica Weisman-Pitts
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By Lawrence Delevingne

BOSTON (Reuters) -U.S. stocks and oil prices rebounded on Thursday morning as unemployment claims declined and the trade deficit widened, positive economic data in the face of rising COVID-19 cases and signals of declining Federal Reserve stimulus.

The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits declined further last week, while layoffs dropped to their lowest level in just more than 21 years in July as companies held on to their workers amid a labor shortage.

The U.S. trade deficit also surged to a record high in June as efforts by business to rebuild inventories to meet robust consumer spending drew in more imports.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 167.64 points, or 0.48%, to 34,960.31, the S&P 500 gained 16.11 points, or 0.37%, to 4,418.77 and the Nasdaq Composite added 61.63 points, or 0.42%, to 14,842.16.

Goldman Sachs market strategists on Thursday raised their year-end and 2022 price targets for the S&P 500 Index, citing “the combination of higher-than-expected S&P 500 earnings and lower-than-expected interest rates.”

Still, investors want to know just how low rates will stay, and for how long.

U.S. Federal Reserve Vice Chair Richard Clarida, a major architect of the Fed’s new policy strategy, said on Wednesday he felt the conditions for raising interest rates could be met by the end of 2022, raising expectations that the central bank could scale back its bond-buying program soon.

A key indicator is due on Friday with the U.S. non-farm payrolls report, seen as key to the U.S. central bank’s policy stance.

The dollar held gains against a basket of currencies on Thursday morning after Clarida’s hawkish remarks, trading around 92.282 after hitting an eight-day high of 92.352.

Traders left U.S. Treasury yields largely in place on Thursday despite a healthy report on jobless claims as they waited for more detailed employment data due on Friday.

Benchmark 10-year notes last fell 9/32 in price to yield 1.2135%, up from 1.184% late on Wednesday.

Oil prices increased toward $71 a barrel on Thursday on rising Middle East tensions, while fresh movement restrictions imposed by countries to counter a surge in COVID-19 cases threatened the demand recovery.

U.S. crude recently rose 0.28% to $68.34 per barrel and Brent was at $70.55, up 0.24% on the day.

Spot gold dropped 0.5% to $1,802.11 an ounce. U.S. gold futures fell 0.76% to $1,796.80 an ounce.

(Reporting by Lawrence Delevingne; Editing by Will Dunham)