By DAMIAN J. TROISE
Stocks were up modestly on Thursday, adding to the gains that helped the stock market close out its best first half of a year since the dotcom bubble.
Investors have been encouraged by data that show the economy continues its recovery from the pandemic. The highly anticipated jobs report for June comes out Friday.
The S&P 500 index was up 0.3% as of 12:57 p.m. Eastern. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 76 points, or 0.2%, to 34,578. Health care and energy companies, along with banks, led the way.
The technology-heavy Nasdaq Composite fell 0.3% due to weakness in the tech sector.
The S&P ended the first half of 2021 up 14.5%, it’s best six month period since 1998, as investors have embraced the post-pandemic economic recovery and set aside worries about inflation.
Stocks got a boost from a positive report on the job market. The number of workers filing for unemployment benefits fell to 364,000 last week, the lowest level since the pandemic walloped the economy.
Employment has been one of the shakier areas of the economic recovery and has lagged other measures such as consumer confidence and retail sales. Economists and analysts have said that a much fuller and more stable recovery is dependent on more people going back to work.
On Friday investors will get the June jobs report. Economists surveyed by FactSet expect the U.S. economy created 675,000 jobs last month, and the unemployment rate fell to 5.7%.
“Investors are eager to see whether or not the labor market continues to recover as quickly as expected,” said Charlie Ripley, senior investment strategist for Allianz Investment Management.
The June jobs report is also being closely watched as a potential gauge for when The Federal Reserve might start easing its bond purchases and other measures that have kept interest rates low. Inflation fears have somewhat subsided, but investors are still trying to figure out whether rising inflation will be temporary or more long-lasting.
As part of the jobs report, investors will look to see if wages kept rising, which could add to inflation.
“All of these things are feeding into whether the Fed makes material changes to policy in near future,” Ripley said.
Airlines and other travel-related companies that have been battered by the pandemic gained ground following the latest upbeat unemployment data. Delta Air Lines rose 1.5% and Marriott rose 1.8%.
The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 1.48% from 1.45% the day before.
Oil prices jumped as OPEC met. The group of oil-producing countries is considering whether to increase production as the global economy recovers from the pandemic. Oil prices along with other raw materials have risen steadily this year as demand has increased. Oil gained 2.4% Thursday morning and is up 55% so far this year.
Higher oil prices translated into higher energy company stocks. Occidental Petroleum rose 5.1%, ConocoPhillips gained 4.1% and Marathon Oil added 4.2%. The energy sector of the S&P 500 was the biggest winner in the first half of the year with a gain of over 40%.
Doughnut chain Krispy Kreme barely budged early in its debut on the Nasdaq. The Charlotte, North Carolina-based company, known for its glazed doughnuts, rose 2.3%. It priced its initial public offering of 29.4 million shares at $17 a piece, which was well below the $21 to $24 it was seeking.
A currency trader watches monitors at the foreign exchange dealing room of the KEB Hana Bank headquarters in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, July 1, 2021.Asian shares are mostly lower as investors await a much watched U.S. jobs for indications of how the recovery from the pandemic is faring. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)