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US STOCKS-Wall St rises as focus turns to stimulus, corporate earnings

·3 min read

(For a Reuters live blog on U.S., UK and European stock markets, click LIVE/ or type LIVE/ in a news window.)

* Weekly jobless claims decrease more than expected

* eBay, PayPal jump on upbeat quarterly earnings

* Qualcomm slips as chip supply constraints hold back sales

* Indexes up: Dow 0.52%, S&P 0.41%, Nasdaq 0.46% (Updates to market open)

By Devik Jain and Shreyashi Sanyal

Feb 4 (Reuters) - Wall Street's main indexes rose on Thursday as investors looked to corporate earnings and signs of progress on a pandemic-relief package after data suggested the labor market was stabilizing.

The Labor Department's report showed 779,000 Americans filed new applications for unemployment benefits last week, lower than 812,000 in the prior week, as authorities started to loosen pandemic-related restrictions on businesses.

A report on Wednesday showed U.S. private payrolls rebounded more than expected in January. The government's closely watched and comprehensive monthly employment report is due on Friday.

"You're seeing a little bit of sort of calmness or consolidation after a big run-up a couple of days ago," said Robert Pavlik, senior portfolio manager at Dakota Wealth Management in New York.

"The market is digesting earnings news and more importantly the focus is on what type of agreement can come out of Washington related to stimulus."

Nine of the 11 major S&P sectors advanced in early trading with financial and technology gaining the most.

All the three major indexes have bounced back sharply this week as investors monitored talks over the next round of fiscal stimulus and as a recent buying frenzy driven by social media appeared to stall following a bout of market volatility last week.

President Joe Biden is open to narrowing the threshold for Americans eligible to receive $1,400 checks as part of coronavirus relief legislation, White House economic adviser Jared Bernstein told the Washington Post on Thursday.

Videogame retailer GameStop Corp fell 10.1%, while cinema operator AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc slipped 7.2% as U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said that before she and financial market regulators took any action, they needed to "understand deeply" what happened in the retail trading frenzy in recent days.

Concerns over heightened stock market valuations, raging pandemic and new coronavirus variants have kept investors on edge with attention turning towards earnings outlook from corporate America to justify it.

U.S. companies are on track to post earnings growth for the fourth quarter of 2020, data from Refinitiv showed on Wednesday, which would defy expectations for profits to drop 10% due to the pandemic.

At 9:50 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 159.70 points, or 0.52%, at 30,883.30, the S&P 500 was up 15.86 points, or 0.41%, at 3,846.03, and the Nasdaq Composite was up 63.17 points, or 0.46%, at 13,673.72.

A pandemic-driven surge in online shopping during the holiday season helped e-commerce firm eBay Inc and payment platform PayPal Holdings Inc top quarterly earnings estimates. EBay shares jumped 8.6%, while PayPal gained 8.4%.

Qualcomm Inc fell 8.5% after the chipmaker said semiconductor supply constraints that have roiled the industry contributed to first-quarter sales that slightly missed Wall Street expectations.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 1.74-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and a 2.07-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 12 new 52-week highs and no new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 121 new highs and no new low. (Reporting by Devik Jain in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel)