(Reuters) - Major U.S. stock averages treaded water on Thursday as investors awaited a new fiscal aid package to prop up the country's economy, with data showing 31.3 million Americans were receiving unemployment checks in mid-July.
Still, the tech-heavy Nasdaq clinched a new record high in early trading. The benchmark S&P 500 and blue-chip Dow were about 2% and 8% away from their own peaks scaled in February.
Economic data released on Thursday painted a mixed picture as Labor Department numbers showed a first fall in jobless claims in three weeks, while a separate report showed a 54% surge in job cuts announced by employers in July.The focus now shifts to the monthly jobs report on Friday.
"With the trajectory of the recovery still unclear, today's numbers highlight the uncertainty in the labor market," said Mike Loewengart, managing director of investment strategy at E*TRADE Financial Corp in Jersey City.
"And with stimulus talks in Washington still volleying for an answer to the unemployment problem, the future is clouded."
Top congressional Democrats and White House officials will try again on Thursday to find a compromise on major issues including the size of a federal benefit for the unemployed as they work towards a relief legislation.
But Wall Street's main indexes are set for a second straight weekly gain, powered by heaps of fiscal and monetary stimulus and better-than-feared second-quarter earnings.
At 10:05 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) was up 49.93 points, or 0.18%, at 27,251.45, the S&P 500 (SPX) was up 0.47 points, or 0.01%, at 3,328.24. The Nasdaq Composite (IXIC) was down 5.28 points, or 0.05%, at 10,993.12.Communication services (SPLRCL) led gains among major S&P sectors.
Among individual shares, Western Digital (O:WDC) sank 16.7% after the hard drive maker reported weaker-than-expected fourth-quarter revenue and forecast a soft current quarter.
Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd (N:NCLH) and hotel operator Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc (N:HLT) reversed course after dropping in early trade. Both the companies reported a wider-than-expected quarterly loss as their businesses were ravaged by the pandemic.
Bristol-Myers Squibb Co (N:BMY) gained 3.2% after the drugmaker raised its annual profit forecast on hopes of a recovery in demand for its hospital-administered drugs.
ViacomCBS (NASDAQ:VIAC) Inc (O:VIACA) jumped 5.1% after beating analysts' estimates for quarterly revenue due to high demand for streaming.
Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 1.04-to-1 ratio on the NYSE. Declining issues outnumbered advancers for a 1.19-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.
The S&P index recorded 14 new 52-week highs and no new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 103 new highs and one new lows.