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Stocks Finish Higher as Investors Weigh Recovery Prospects

Stocks finish higher as investors weigh encouraging encouraging economic data and assess progress in the fight against COVID-19.

Stocks shook off losses and finished higher Thursday as investors weighed encouraging economic data and assessed progress in the fight against COVID-19.

President Joe Biden said Thursday he doubled his vaccination goal to 200 million shots in his first 100 days in office.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished up 199 points, or 0.62%, at 32,619, the S&P 500 rose 0.52% and the tech-heavy Nasdaq ticked up 0.12%.

Nike  (NKE) - Get Nike Inc. Report declined 3.4% Thursday after the world's biggest sports apparel group was criticized by China's Foreign Ministry for a statement it made about the country's treatment of Uighur Muslims.

Boeing  (BA) - Get The Boeing Company Report led the Dow higher, rising 3.4%, after a report said the Chicago aerospace giant was set to resume delivering 787 Dreamliners this week.

Lifting optimism on Wall Street were a sharper-than-forecast drop in weekly jobless claims and data that showed the U.S. economy expanded at a faster pace in the fourth quarter than had been estimated.

Oil prices in the U.S. declined nearly 5% following a rally sparked by a container ship blocking the Suez Canal. 

The ship created a bottleneck that could slow the delivery of more than 13 million barrels of crude through one of the world's busiest waterways. Efforts were underway to free the massive container vessel, which has caused a backlog of ships for a third day.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell hinted Thursday the central bank would begin pulling back its support for the U.S. economy once its goals on inflation and employment have been met.

"Over time, we will, as the economy recovers and we've provided guidance to the public about this, as we make substantial further progress toward our goals, will gradually roll back the amount of Treasury and mortgage-backed securities we're buying," Powell told NPR’s “Morning Edition” on Thursday. 

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"And then in the longer run, we've set out a test that will enable us to raise interest rates. So we will very, very gradually over time and with great transparency, when the economy has all but fully recovered, we will be, you know, pulling back the support that we provided during emergency times,” he added.

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The 10-year U.S. Treasury yield rose to 1.626% Thursday after an auction of seven-year notes was weaker than expected. An auction of that maturity stumbled in February, triggering a spike in yields. 

The Securities and Exchange Commission, meanwhile, has opened an inquiry into the blank-check acquisition frenzy on Wall Street and is seeking information on how underwriters are managing the risks involved, Reuters reported.

The SEC in recent days sent letters to Wall Street banks seeking information on their dealings in special purpose acquisition companies, or SPACs, Reuters reported, citing four people with direct knowledge of the matter.

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Stocks on Wednesday had ended broadly lower on Wall Street, led by declines in tech stocks such as Apple  (AAPL) - Get Apple Inc. Report and Facebook  (FB) - Get Meta Platforms Inc. Report

The tech-heavy Nasdaq's decline was spurred by a rotation into cyclical stocks and away from high-growth equities, particularly rate-sensitive technology shares.

"The declines in technology stocks are rooted in nothing fundamental or headline-driven -- it's simply a good old fashioned repricing," said David Bahnsen, chief investment officer of Bahnsen Group in Newport Beach, Calif. 

"Tech-stock valuations are too high and are screaming for a correction."

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