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Stock Market Today-3/24: Stocks End Higher, Oil Steady As Biden Meets NATO Leaders In Brussels

Stocks ended higher Thursday as investors eyed headlines from President Joe Biden's emergency NATO summit in Brussels.

Updated at 4:20 pm EST

Stocks finished higher Thursday, while oil prices steadied and Treasury bond yields ticked modestly lower, as President Joe Biden met with NATO and EU leaders in Brussels as part of an international effort to end Russia's war on Ukraine.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished up 349 points, or 1.02%, to 34,707, while the S&P 500, which is down 6.05% for the year, moved 1.43% to the upside. The tech-focused Nasdaq Composite gained 1.93%.

Firmly into its first month, the so-called 'special operation' launched by Vladimir Putin has displaced nearly a quarter of Ukraine's 44 million citizens and caused the death of more than 1,000 civilians, according to United Nations observers.

Biden said that Russia should be removed from the G20 group of industrialized and developing nations, while Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky appeared via video link at the closed-door NATO meeting and said "I am sure you already understand that Russia does not intend to stop in Ukraine."

Oil prices, which extending gains in response, as well as in reaction to yesterday's Energy Department data release showing a deeper-than-expected decline in domestic crude stocks, fell later in the session with WTI crude futures for May delivery down  $3.58 to $111.30 per barrel.

In Russia, the Moscow Stock Exchange resumed trading on a limited number of stocks Thursday following a month-long closure following the invasion of Ukraine in late February.

The benchmark MOEX index was last seen 4.4% higher on the session at 2,578.51 points, after rising as much as 12% in early trading, as investors bet that an $11 billion injection from Russia's National Wealth Fund would support prices for the 33 of 50 stocks allowed to trade in the opening session.

In the U.S., another round of hawkish comments from Federal Reserve Presidents, including the San Francisco Fed's Mary Daly, has consolidated bets on a 50 basis point rate hike at the central bank's May policy meeting, with the CME Group's FedWatch tool pricing in a 68.5% probability, up from just 32.9% two weeks ago.

Benchmark 10-year note yields were marked slightly higher at 2.355% following jobless claims and February durable goods data while the U.S. dollar index was marked 0.16% higher against a basket of its global peers at 98.78.

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Jobless claims, in fact, fell to a fresh post-pandemic low of 187,000, taking the four-week average to 211,750. Durable goods orders also surprised, but in the wrong direction, falling by a bigger-than-expected 2.2%.

U.S. airline stocks moved higher after industry leaders urged President Joe Biden to lift the pandemic-era mask mandate on planes and in airports, arguing the rules a 'no longer aligned' to the current post-Covid environment.

The plea followed statements from most U.S. carriers said bookings and traffic has improved notably since the start of the year amid the easing of pandemic era restricts on business and travel.

United Airlines  (UAL)  shares finished up 3% to $42.78 each, while Delta Airlines  (DAL)  rose 2.8% to $37.25 each.

Southwest Airlines  (LUV)  shares rose 2.5% to $43.92 each while American Airlines  (AAL)  rose 3.15% to $16.72 each.

Boeing  (BA)  shares rose 1.62% after investigations in China continued their search for a second 'black box' from the China Eastern Airlines 737-800 that crashed in the southern region of the country earlier this week, killing all 132 passengers and crew.

Yesterday's discovery of the cockpit recorder will provide some clues as to the cause of the flight Flight MU 5735 disaster, which occurred around an hour after takeoff from the city of Guangzhou. China's Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) took possession of the recorder in Beijing Thursday, and have invited investigators from the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board to travel to China to assist the probe.

Uber Technologies  (UBER)  shares gained 5% after reaching a deal with ride-hailing group Curb to list all New York City taxis on the Uber app.

Nikola Corp.  (NKLA)  shares surged 5.7% after the electric truckmaker said production of its flagship Tre BEV vehicles kicked-off earlier this week in Arizona.

KB Home  (KBH)  shares fell 4.6% after the California-based home builder posted softer-than-expected first quarter earnings amid a noted slowdown in new home sales and the biggest bump in mortgage rates in more than two years. 

Hertz Global  (HTZ)  shares edged 2% higher after the car rental group said it had added Tesla-made  (TSLA)  Model Y sedans to its fleet this week.

Tesla shares, which are on a seven-day winning streak, were marked 1.5% higher at $1,013.92 each.