US stocks climb on record GDP growth and encouraging jobless claims data

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  • US equities edged higher on Thursday as economic data pointed to a stronger-than-expected pace of recovery.
  • The US economy grew at a record 33.1% annualized rate in the third quarter, the Commerce Department said Thursday. The reading exceeded the 32% estimate from economists surveyed by Bloomberg.
  • Weekly jobless claims fell to 751,000 in the week that ended on Saturday, the Labor Department said. The reading exceeded the median economist estimate of 770,000.
  • Tech stocks outperformed ahead of earnings reports from Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Alphabet after the close.
  • Watch major indexes update live here.

US stocks gained on Thursday as economic data detailing the nation’s recovery exceeded expectations.

The US economy grew at a record 33.1% annualized rate in the third quarter, the Commerce Department announced Thursday. The reading came in just above the 32% economist estimate and is roughly double the next-biggest GDP jump on record.

While the leap might seem to offset the second quarter’s 31.4% contraction, it doesn’t bring output back to pre-pandemic levels. Third-quarter growth would’ve needed to hit roughly 46% to balance out the virus-induced slump.

Here’s where US indexes stood at 10:55 a.m. ET on Thursday:

  • S&P 500: 3,297.60, up 0.8%
  • Dow Jones industrial average: 26,610.78, up 0.3% (80 points)
  • Nasdaq composite: 11,123.31, up 1.1%

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“If the provisional figure is correct, the US economy has now recovered to around 10% below its level in the first quarter, before the onset of the pandemic in the US,” Cailin Birch, a global economist at the Economist Intelligence Unit, said in an emailed statement.

Weekly jobless claims also exceeded economists’ forecasts. Filings for unemployment benefits fell to an unadjusted 751,000 for the week that ended on Saturday, the Labor Department said. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg had expected claims to slide to 770,000.

Continuing claims, which track the aggregate total of Americans receiving unemployment benefits, fell to 7.8 million for the week that ended on October 17. That reading was roughly in line with economists’ expectations.

The Thursday claims report suggests the labor market’s recovery is moving forward after stalling earlier in the month. Still, “good news continues to be tempered” by the rising number of Americans who have exhausted regular benefits, Nancy Vanden Houten, the lead US economist at Oxford Economics, said in a note, adding that the total is “evidence of more lasting scarring in the labor market.”

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The market’s moderate climb follows stocks’ worst day since June. The S&P 500 sank 3.5% on Wednesday as surging COVID-19 cases prompted Germany and France to reinstate lockdown measures. With cases in the US increasing, the rising odds of another economic shutdown cut into investor sentiments.

If the quarterly GDP reading and jobless claims weren’t enough to digest, Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Alphabet are set to report earnings after the market closes. Better-than-expected results could help major indexes erase some of the week’s losses on Friday.

Tech stocks led the Nasdaq to outperform after the open, while the Dow eked out minor gains. The latter index tumbled through the week as financial and industrial stocks faced outsized selling.

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Bitcoin hovered at about $13,000 after breaking above $13,300 earlier in the morning. The cryptocurrency’s rally has slowed since it broke through the psychological level.

Spot gold fell as much as 0.9%, to $1,860.04 per ounce, its lowest level in a month. The US dollar gained against a basket of other currencies, and Treasury yields edged higher.

Oil sank to a five-month low as the new lockdown measures in Europe damaged recovery hopes. West Texas Intermediate crude fell as much as 6.6%, to $34.92 per barrel. Brent crude, oil’s international benchmark, fell 6.2%, to $36.68 per barrel, at intraday lows.

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