Dow hits record high as cyclicals rise on jobless claims data

(Reuters) - The Dow Jones Industrials hit a record high on Thursday, as economically sensitive stocks rose after an upbeat weekly jobless claims report, while vaccine makers fell as President Joe Biden backed plans to waive patents on COVID-19 shots.

Cyclical sectors including the S&P 500 financials and industrials rose after a Labor Department report showed initial claims for state unemployment benefits totaled a seasonally adjusted 498,000 for the week ended May 1 compared to 590,000 in the prior week.

Investors are now awaiting a more comprehensive non-farm payrolls report on Friday for clues on the strength of the labor market and potentially the U.S. Federal Reserve's stance on monetary policy.

"Today's read is another proof point that we're one step closer to full economic recovery, sooner than some may have expected," said Mike Loewengart, managing director of investment strategy at E*TRADE Financial.

"So as we see some serious momentum building on the jobs front, all eyes will be on how this plays into action taken by the Fed, if any."

Shares in Pfizer Inc, Moderna Inc, Johnson & Johnson and Novavax Inc, all involved in the making of COVID-19 vaccines, fell between 0.2% and 1.7%.

The declines were triggered after the White House said Biden made the decision to back a proposed waiver for COVID-19 vaccine intellectual property rights.

The S&P 500 healthcare sector slipped 0.8%, while the Nasdaq biotechnology index dropped 1.2%.

Moderna's shares cut some losses after it said countries around the globe would continue buying its COVID-19 vaccine for years even if patents on the shots are waived. [nL4N2MT38S]

"Obviously companies spend so much time and money protecting their trade secrets that I think it was a little bit of a shock for many to see that sort of proposal go through," said JJ Kinahan, chief market strategist, TD Ameritrade.

Shares of highly valued technology-related stocks like Microsoft Corp, Apple Inc, Alphabet Inc and Inc were trading mixed.

At 12:16 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 156.12 points, or 0.46%, at 34,386.46, the S&P 500 was up 10.64 points, or 0.26%, at 4,178.23 and the Nasdaq Composite was down 17.06 points, or 0.13%, at 13,565.37.

Among other stocks, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc rose 3.5% after the drugmaker reported a better-than-expected quarterly profit and said it expects demand for its COVID-19 antibody therapy to hold up.

Uber Technologies Inc fell 8.5% as it signaled it would pay drivers more to get cars back on the road and disclosed a $600 million charge to provide UK drivers with benefits.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers for a 1.25-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and for a 2.17-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 100 new 52-week highs and no new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 90 new highs and 126 new lows.

(Reporting by Shreyashi Sanyal and Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Medha Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel)

05/06/2021 16:49

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