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Stocks Bounce Back to End Higher as Banks Rally - Jobs Data Temper Gains

Stocks stage a comeback to end higher as another 3 million Americans file for unemployment benefits in the latest week.

Stocks rallied to end higher Thursday after another three million Americans filed for unemployment benefits in the latest week and as U.S.-China tensions were rising.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished up 377 points, or 1.62%, to 23,625, the S&P 500 rose 1.15% and the Nasdaq dropped 0.91%.

Bank stocks were among the leading gainers: JPMorgan Chase  (JPM) - Get Report was rising 4.2% and Wells Fargo  (WFC) - Get Report jumped 6.8%. American Express  (AXP) - Get Report was the Dow's top gainer, finishing up 7.4%.

Some 2.98 million U.S. workers filed jobless claims last week, the Labor Department reported Thursday, even as parts of the U.S. economy slowly began to reopen after being closed for two months amid the coronavirus pandemic. Continuing jobless claims were 22.8 million, still the highest on record.

Over the past eight weeks 36.5 million Americans have filed for jobless benefits.

"Headline numbers continue to dominate the news" but "continuing claims aren't rising at the same rate," said Jamie Cox, managing partner for Harris Financial Group in Richmond, Va. 

"This indicates programs, like (Paycheck Protection Program), may be having an effect and rehiring due to easing of work restrictions could show up in the coming weeks.

"No one knows if the bottom is in, but when the continuing claims turn downward, we will be close," Cox added.

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President Donald Trump, meanwhile, said Thursday in an interview with Fox Business that he was looking at Chinese companies that trade on U.S. exchanges but don't follow accounting rules.

He also said he doesn’t want to talk to President Xi Jinping of China “right now."

Earlier this week, the Trump administration moved to block investments in Chinese equities by the Thrift Savings Plan, a federal employee retirement fund.

Stocks on Wednesday declined for a second session after Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell warned the U.S. economy's "path ahead is both highly uncertain and subject to significant downside risks."

“Additional fiscal support could be costly but worth it if it helps avoid long-term economic damage and leaves us with a stronger recovery,” the Fed chief said.

Oil prices in the U.S. were rising Thursday after the U.S. Energy Department reported a surprise decrease in domestic crude stocks, and the International Energy Agency said global demand could return in the second half of the year as economies recovery and OPEC production cuts take hold.

The IEA said Thursday in its monthly report for May that demand was a little stronger than expected but still projected global demand to decline by 21.5 million barrels a day. Global oil supplies were projected to fall by 12 million barrels a day, or about 12%, during May.

“We see early signs of a gradual rebalancing of oil markets. It is still gradual and it is still fragile,” said Fatih Birol, the IEA’s executive director.

West Texas Intermediate crude contracts for June delivery, which expire next week, rose 9.89% to $27.79 a barrel.