Stocks Rebound and Nasdaq Charges Higher as Jobless Claims Fall

Stocks end higher Thursday following three days of losses for the S&P 500.
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Stocks finished higher Thursday following three days of losses for the S&P 500 after U.S. jobless claims fell last week to a pandemic low.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished up 188 points, or 0.55%, to 34,084, the S&P 500 gained 1.06% and the Nasdaq advanced 1.77%.

The Nasdaq was up as much as 2% at one point during Thursday's session. Key tech gainers within the Nasdaq 100 included NetEase  (NTES) - Get Report, the Chinese content and gaming platform, up 8%, and vaccine producer Moderna  (MRNA) - Get Report, up 5.1%.

Chipmakers and related companies were strong, including Maxim Integrated  (MXIM) - Get Report, Applied Materials  (AMAT) - Get Report, Analog Devices  (ADI) - Get Report, Lam Research  (LRCX) - Get Report, Marvell  (MRVL) - Get Report and Nvidia  (NVDA) - Get Report.  

The number of Americans filing for first-time unemployment benefits decreased to 444,000 last week from the previous week's 478,000.

The latest reading on the U.S. employment picture comes as the Federal Reserve monitors rising inflation and how a faster-than-expected economic recovery, including a rebounding jobs market, will affect consumer prices.

Investors on Thursday were assessing the Fed's somewhat surprising discussion on easing back bond purchases if the economy improves rapidly.

Stocks finished lower Wednesday but cut losses late in the session after some members of the Federal Reserve indicated in the central bank's meeting minutes they were open to discussing the scaling back of asset purchases "at some point" if the economy improves faster than expected from the coronavirus pandemic.

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The discussions marked the first time the Fed has made mention of the possibility of scaling back its $120 billion of monthly bond purchases.

A change in the Fed's monthly asset purchases - which market professionals describe as tapering - would be the first step toward a boost in the federal funds rate, which currently sits at a record low range of between 0% and 0.25%. 

"While inflation has been the star of the show, keep in mind that the Fed's mandate is twofold - with employment as the other side," said Mike Loewengart, managing director of investment strategy at E-Trade. 

"The jobless-claims read shows once again that we’re heading in the right direction, but we’re a ways away from where we were pre-pandemic. 

"So with the market going for a pretty wild ride this week and Fed minutes suggesting that talks about a change in policy could come at some point, investors should keep in mind that volatility is par for the course." he added.

Bitcoin fluctuated Thursday and finished marginally higher after the U.S. Treasury said the Biden administration’s proposal to strengthen tax compliance includes a requirement for transfers of at least $10,000 of cryptocurrency to be reported to the Internal Revenue Service, Bloomberg reported.

Bitcoin had traded significantly higher earlier in the session following a volatile Wednesday. The world's biggest cryptocurrency dropped as much as 31% and then regained those losses later Wednesday.

TheStreet's Jim Cramer said the mayhem in Bitcoin underscores the need for tighter regulation.

"Time for the SEC to consider crypto and asset worth regulating ... that's what yesterday was about: the need for regulation," Cramer said in a tweet. "One hundred to one leverage is not healthy for the system. New systemic risk identified."

Oil prices declined on reported progress toward a deal to lift sanctions on Iran.

Ford  (F) - Get Report finished up 3.2% on Thursday after unveiling the all-electric F-150 Lightning at a starting price below $40,000.

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Ford and Nvidia are holdings in Jim Cramer’s Action Alerts PLUS Charitable Trust Portfolio. Want to be alerted before Cramer buys or sells the stocks? Learn more now.