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S&P 500 and Nasdaq notch record closes as jobless claims reach pandemic low

CNBC logo CNBC 9/1/2021 Yun Li
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The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite climbed to new respective records on Thursday after weekly U.S. jobless claims reached their lowest level since the start of the Covid crisis.

The broad equity benchmark added 0.3% to 4,536.95, hitting its 54th record closing high of 2021. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 131.29 points, or 0.4%, to 35,443.82, lifted by Walgreens and Chevron. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite advanced 0.1% to 15,331.18, also reaching a record close.

First-time claims for unemployment insurance totaled 340,000 for the week ended Aug. 28, versus a Dow Jones estimate of 345,000. The number is also the lowest since March 2020.

The data came in a day before the key August jobs report, which investors are watching closely to decipher how fast the Federal Reserve will remove easy monetary policy. Economists predict 720,000 jobs were added in the month, down from 943,000 jobs added in July.

"With jobless claims hitting a pandemic low, there's definitely some optimism as we look ahead to the full jobs picture tomorrow," said Mike Loewengart, managing director of investment strategy at E-Trade. "We could experience a bit of a tug and a pull — on one hand a solid jobs report is a positive indication of economic recovery, and on the other it backs up the Fed's case to begin tapering."

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell has emphasized the need for more strong jobs data before the central bank would start to unwind its massive bond-buying program, putting heightened focus on Friday's employment report.

On Thursday, Chewy and Five Below were among the notable movers with shares tumbling 9.3% and 13%, respectively, after reporting quarterly results. Shares of ChargePoint, the maker of charge systems for electric vehicles, jumped 8.2% after reporting stellar quarterly earnings.

September has been among the seasonally weakest months of the year, but many hold a constructive view on the market as the technical backdrop remains solid and the economic reopening from the pandemic continues.

"The relentless march higher on low volatility in U.S. equities continues and with breadth, volume positioning and sentiment measures all positive in our view we look for the rally to extend further into new highs yet," Credit Suisse said in a note Wednesday.

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