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Tech shares lead Wall Street up ahead of jobs data, oil prices fall

·3-min read
US stocks hit session highs amid talks of progress on stimulus talks, but ebbed on subsequent reports a deal was still far off
US stocks hit session highs amid talks of progress on stimulus talks, but ebbed on subsequent reports a deal was still far off

Tech shares led Wall Street higher Thursday as markets weighed mixed economic data and ongoing talks over fiscal stimulus, while oil prices retreated on worries about weak demand.

Investors took in a deluge of economic reports ahead of Friday's highly anticipated government jobs data, the last before the US presidential election.

Among the releases Thursday, US jobless claims dipped slightly from the prior week, but remained at 837,000, still an extremely elevated level by historic standards.

US car sales in the third quarter from General Motors and other auto giants fell less than expected. 

But Commerce Department data showed a drop in personal income of 2.7 percent in August, reflecting a hit from the expiration of US supplemental unemployment benefits.

"The huge decline in household income is a warning that the economy is still heavily dependent on government social welfare payments," said economist Joel Naroff.

The situation on another big fiscal bill to support the coronavirus-ravaged US economy remained fluid, with lawmakers in Washington attempting to reach a deal.

The S&P 500 gained as much as 1.0 percent shortly after news reports suggested Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had moved closer to an agreement.

But the gains then ebbed after "follow up reports... indicated that distance remains between both sides," said.

With the House scheduled to go into recess at the end of the week, time for a deal is running out.

In Europe, both London and Paris moved modestly higher, while Frankfurt was dragged down by a sell-off in Bayer shares after the company announced more cost-cutting measures. 

Asia began the new trading quarter on a quiet note, with Tokyo closed by a computer glitch and several others exchanges including Hong Kong and Shanghai shut for holidays, though there were healthy gains elsewhere.

- Oil tumbles -

World oil prices fell sharply amid ample supplies and timid demand. analyst Neil Wilson told AFP it "seems to be a general sentiment-driven sell-off based on demand/supply imbalances."

The stuttering economic recovery from coronavirus lockdowns in many countries has complicated efforts by oil producers to ensure the market is not oversupplied.

CMC Markets analyst David Madden pointed to OPEC confirming a rise in production in September.

"To make matters worse for the oil market, health concerns are persistent, so that has chipped away at traders' perception of demand," he said.

Meanwhile, the British pound was on a roller coaster as the European Union launched legal action over the UK government's attempt to overturn parts of the Brexit withdrawal agreement.

- Key figures around 2115 GMT -

New York - Dow Jones: UP 0.1 percent at 27,816.90 (close)

New York - S&P 500: UP 0.5 percent at 3,380.80 (close)

New York - Nasdaq: UP 1.4 percent at 11,326.51 (close)

London - FTSE 100: UP 0.2 percent at 5,879.45 (close)

Frankfurt - DAX 30: DOWN 0.2 percent at 12,730.70 (close)

Paris - CAC 40: UP 0.4 percent at 4,824.04 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: FLAT at 3,194.09 (close)

Sydney - S&P/ASX 200: UP 1.0 percent at 5,872.90 (close)

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: Trade halted for the day

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: Closed for holiday

Shanghai - Composite: Closed for holiday

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2893 from $1.2920 at 2100 GMT 

Euro/pound: UP at 91.16 pence from 90.72 pence

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1745 from $1.1721

Dollar/yen: UP at 105.50 yen from 105.48 yen

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 3.8 percent at $38.72 per barrel

Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 3.2 percent at $39.92 per barrel