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S&P 500, Nasdaq snap losing streaks after jobless claims rise

By David French

(Reuters) - The S&P 500 ended higher on Thursday, snapping a five-session losing streak, as investors interpreted data showing a rise in weekly jobless claims as a sign the pace of interest rate hikes could soon slow.

Wall Street's main indexes had come under pressure in recent days, with the S&P 500 shedding 3.6% since the beginning of December on expectations of a longer rate-hike cycle and downbeat economic views from some top company executives.

Such thinking had also weighed on the Nasdaq Composite, which had posted four straight losing sessions prior to Thursday's advance on the tech-heavy index.

Stocks rose as investors cheered data showing the number of Americans filing claims for jobless benefits increased moderately last week, while unemployment rolls hit a 10-month high toward the end of November.

The report follows data last Friday that showed U.S. employers hired more workers than expected in November and increased wages, spurring fears that the Fed might stick to its aggressive stance to tame decades-high inflation.

Markets have been swayed by data releases in recent days, with investors lacking certainty ahead of Federal Reserve guidance next week on interest rates.

Such behavior means Friday's producer price index and the University of Michigan's consumer sentiment survey will likely dictate whether Wall Street can build on Thursday's rally.

"The market has to adjust to the fact that we're moving from a stimulus-based economy - both fiscal and monetary - into a fundamentals-based economy, and that's what we're grappling with right now," said Wiley Angell, chief market strategist at Ziegler Capital Management.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 183.56 points, or 0.55%, to close at 33,781.48; the S&P 500 gained 29.59 points, or 0.75%, to finish at 3,963.51; and the Nasdaq Composite added 123.45 points, or 1.13%, at 11,082.00.

Nine of the 11 major S&P 500 sectors rose, led by a 1.6% gain in technology stocks.

Most mega-cap technology and growth stocks gained. Apple Inc, Nvidia Corp and Amazon.com Inc rose between 1.2% and 6.5%.

Microsoft Corp ended 1.2% higher, despite giving up some intraday gains after the Federal Trade Commission filed a complaint aimed at blocking the tech giant's $69 billion bid to buy Activision Blizzard Inc. The "Call of Duty" games maker closed 1.5% lower.

The energy index was an exception, slipping 0.5%, despite Exxon Mobil Corp gaining 0.7% after announcing it would expand its $30-billion share repurchase program. The sector had been under pressure in recent sessions as commodity prices slipped: U.S. crude is now hovering near its level at the start of 2022.

Meanwhile, Moderna Inc advanced 3.2% after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized COVID-19 shots from the vaccine maker that target both the original coronavirus and Omicron sub-variants for use in children as young as six months old.

The regulator also approved similar guidance for fellow COVID vaccine maker Pfizer Inc, which rose 3.1%, and its partner BioNTech, whose U.S.-listed shares gained 5.6%.

Rent the Runway Inc posted its biggest ever one-day gain, jumping 74.3%, after the clothing rental firm raised its 2022 revenue forecast.

Volume on U.S. exchanges was 10.07 billion shares, compared with the 10.90 billion average for the full session over the last 20 trading days.

The S&P 500 posted 15 new 52-week highs and three new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 82 new highs and 232 new lows.

(Reporting by Shubham Batra, Ankika Biswas, Johann M Cherian in Bengaluru and David French in New York; Editing by Vinay Dwivedi, Sriraj Kalluvila, Anil D'Silva and Richard Chang)