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S&P 500 Closes at Record; Stocks Extend Win Streak to Four

The S&P 500 reaches a record high close as stocks rise for a fourth day.

Stocks finished higher for a fourth day, with the S&P 500 closing at a record, as sentiment got a boost from a drop in weekly jobless claims to below 800,000 for the first time since November.

The data indicated the labor market could be slowly recovering from the grip of the coronavirus pandemic. The Labor Department will release the official U.S. jobs report for January on Friday.

The S&P 500 closed up 1.09% to a record of 3,871. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 332 points, or 1.08%, to near 31,056, and the Nasdaq rose 1.23% to 13,777.

Yields on the benchmark 30-year Treasury bond rose to their highest level since last March ahead of the expected passage of the Biden administration's $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan.

President Joe Biden signaled Wednesday he wasn't willing to reduce his proposed $1,400 stimulus checks, saying that if he did so he'd be breaking a campaign promise. Biden, however, said he was open to tightening the eligibility for the checks.

Republican lawmakers have called Biden’s plan too expensive.

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Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen will meet with officials from the Securities and Exchange Commission and other regulatory agencies Thursday to discuss recent volatility in financial markets driven by retail trading in stocks like GameStop  (GME) .

“We really need to make sure that our financial markets are functioning properly, efficiently and that investors are protected,” Yellen told ABC's “Good Morning America.” “We’re going to discuss these recent events and discuss whether or not the recent events warrant further action.”

Merck  (MRK)  reported fourth-quarter adjusted earnings of $1.32 a share, below estimates of $1.38, and the drug company said Kenneth Frazier would retire as CEO. 

Merck tapped Chief Financial Officer Robert Davis as Frazier's successor.

Bristol-Myers Squibb  (BMY)  earned $1.46 a share on an adjusted basis in the fourth quarter, 4 cents ahead of Wall Street forecasts.

The company also boosted its full-year profit forecast as sales linked to its 2019 purchase of Celgene continued to support growth. 

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