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U.S. stock indexes finish mostly higher after wobbly day

Specialist Meric Greenbaum, left, and trader Fred DeMarco

Specialist Meric Greenbaum, left, and trader Fred DeMarco work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday. Credit: AP/Richard Drew

Another wobbly day of trading on Wall Street ended Thursday with modest gains, nudging the market's winning streak to a sixth straight day.

Banks, big retailers and communication services companies accounted for much of the market's gains as a late-afternoon flurry of buying drove stocks higher. Technology and health care stocks lagged the most.

Markets have been wobbly throughout the week as investors wait for the government's jobs report on Friday and prepare for a new round of corporate earnings reports next week.

New government data on Thursday showing applications for unemployment aid fell last week to a 49-year low likely means Friday's jobs report will show a strong rebound in hiring after a weak February, said Phil Orlando, chief equity strategist at Federated Investors.

"The one piece of economic news we got today was actually quite good," Orlando said. "The [jobs] number should be good, and to some degree I think the market has been grinding up, reflecting that improvement, along with other improvements in economic data points that we've seen over the last couple of weeks."

The S&P 500 index rose 0.2 percent, to 2,879.39. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 166.50 points, or 0.6 percent, to 26,384.63. The Nasdaq fell 0.1 percent, to 7,891.78.

Despite some bumps this week, the major U.S. stock indexes are on track to end the week with gains, adding to the market's blockbuster returns in the January-March period. The S&P 500 is now up 14.9% this year.

"The market is up 22 percent since the Christmas Eve lows, so the pace of improvement here is going to shift from being strongly positive, as we saw during the first quarter, to more of a grind at this point," Orlando said.

The market could finish the week on a strong note if a the government's latest jobs report shows, as many economists expect, that hiring bounced back in March after adding a paltry 20,000 jobs in February.

 

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