US stocks gain as lowest weekly jobless claims since the pandemic boost recovery optimism

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US stocks gained on Thursday after weekly jobless claims hit their lowest levels since the COVID-19 pandemic began last year.

Jobless claims of 684,000 beat economist expectations of 730,00 and continued claims fell to 3.9 million for the week that ended March 13.

Stocks were initially off to a rocky start Thursday morning after Fed Chairman Jerome Powell told NPR that the Fed will gradually roll back its monthly bond purchases as the economy continues to improve. The Fed currently purchases $120 billion in bonds per month.

“We will very gradually over time and with great transparency, when the economy has all but fully recovered, we will be pulling back the support that we provided during emergency times,” Powell said.

Here’s where US indexes stood at the 4:00 p.m. ET close on Thursday:

The blockage of the Suez Canal continues to disrupt global trade and supply chain issues, and it could take days to unground the Evergreen ship that became stuck due to high winds.

GameStop recovered its post-earnings decline and jumped as much as 53% as the stock found technical support at its 50-day moving average.

Shares of ViacomCBS extended its two-day decline to nearly 30% after it launched a $3 billion equity offering to fund investments in its new streaming platform, Paramount+.

Rite Aid fell 20% after cutting its full-year forecast as the drugstore chain saw fewer customers buying its cough and cold medicine amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bitcoin fell more than 7% and traded just above $51,000 as analysts said the expiration of $5 billion in bitcoin options contracts may be causing volatility.

The SEC said it’s looking into Wall Street’s SPAC craze and is seeking voluntary information from market participants.

Oil prices were lower. West Texas Intermediate crude was down 4.4%, to $58.49 per barrel. Brent crude, oil’s international benchmark, dropped by 4%, to $61.84 per barrel.

Gold fell 0.4%, to $1,726 per ounce.

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