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Stocks mostly advance but vaccine stocks hit

First time US jobless claims plunged last week to under 500,000 for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic struck

European and US equities moved mostly higher on Thursday as encouraging data provided more indications of the strength of the economic recovery in the United States.

Shares in vaccine manufacturers continued to suffer after the United States and several European nations backed lifting patents for coronavirus vaccines, though the damage was less severe than the day prior.

The Dow closed at a new record, even though Wall Street initially failed to gain much traction from data showing that new US jobless claims plunged by 92,000 last week to under 500,000 for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

But the sell-off reversed by the end of trading, and the S&P 500 and Nasdaq also saw decent gains.

The claims data followed a report on Wednesday showing that US private firms added 742,000 jobs in April, with much of them in the crucial services sector, the hardest hit by virus lockdowns and other restrictions last year.

Traders are looking ahead of Friday's April jobs report, which could show the world's largest economy adding one million jobs and the unemployment rate ticking down slightly.

Briefing.com analyst Patrick O'Hare called the drop in jobless claims "consistent with an economy that is reopening and necessitating more hiring activity."

Worries that a surge in inflation as economies reopen will push the US Federal Reserve to raise rates have kept investors on edge and put on a brake on the months-long rally that has seen US stocks strike new highs.

However O'Hare pointed to separate data showing labor productivity rising at a 5.4 percent annual rate and unit labor costs decreasing at a negative 0.3 percent rate.

He said these figures "will continue to feed the Fed's patience for holding its easy policy line despite clear signs of commodity cost inflation."

- Vaccine stocks hit -

Shares in vaccine manufacturers dropped after the EU and Russia followed the United States in signalling they are open to the idea of patent waivers for coronavirus vaccines.

But the sell-off was less severe than the day before, which Gregori Volokhine of Meeschaert Financial Services credited to traders realizing the complexity of reaching an agreement in the World Trade Organization to allow widespread manufacturing of the vaccines, which Germany is against.

"This has removed a fear," he said.

Shares in Pfizer ended one percent lower and Moderna lost 1.4 percent, but Johnson & Johnson gained 0.4 percent.

Pfizer's German partner BioNTech closed 1.6 percent lower, while Curevac, which has yet to have its vaccine approved for use, dropped 7.2 percent. Novavax, which is also working on a vaccine, gained 0.5 percent.

Meanwhile, the Bank of England said that the UK economy will enjoy a stronger-than-expected recovery this year after the government began easing its coronavirus pandemic lockdowns quicker than anticipated.

It now forecasts that Britain's economy will rebound by 7.25 percent this year, compared to a 5.0 percent gain it forecast in February.

London stocks closed higher. The pound fell against the dollar and euro.

Global equities had rebounded Wednesday as investors focused on bright earnings and data pointing to an economic recovery.

- Key figures around 2105 GMT -

New York - Dow: UP 0.9 percent at 34,548.53 (close)

New York - S&P 500: UP 0.8 percent at 4,201.62 (close)

New York - Nasdaq: UP 0.4 percent at 13,632.84 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 0.1 percent at 3,999.44 (close)

London - FTSE 100: UP 0.5 percent at 7,076.17 (close)

Frankfurt - DAX 30: UP 0.2 percent at 15,196.74 (close)

Paris - CAC 40: UP 0.3 percent at 6,357.09 (close)

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 1.8 percent at 29,391.19 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng Index: UP 0.8 percent at 28,637.46 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 0.2 percent at 3,441.28 (close)

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.2061 from $1.2005 at 2100 GMT

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.3890 from $1.3905

Euro/pound: UP at 86.80 pence from 86.33 pence

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 109.09 yen from 109.21 yen

Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 1.0 percent at $68.26 per barrel

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 1.1 percent at $64.89 per barrel

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