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* Pfizer, Merck rise on supply deals for COVID-19 treatments
* Jobless claims still remain at elevated levels
* Indexes: Dow up 0.64%, S&P up 0.46%, Nasdaq down 0.06% (Updates to market open)
Dec 23 (Reuters) – The S&P 500 and the Dow rose on Wednesday as jobless claims unexpectedly fell last week, while the Nasdaq retreated from a record high close on losses in heavyweight technology stocks.
The markets also appeared to have shrugged off a threat from President Donald Trump to not sign an $892 billion coronavirus relief bill, saying it should be amended to increase the amount in the stimulus checks.
While the Labor Departmentâ€™s data showed initial claims for state unemployment benefits fell last week, they remained at elevated levels due to restrictions to curb the spread of new COVID-19 infections.
Meanwhile, a separate report showed consumer spending fell last month for the first time since April, due to weakness in the job market.
â€œThereâ€™s this conflict between the immediate term, where economic conditions are likely to get worse, but longer term, things should improve quite a bit. The stimulus also helps bridge that gap,â€ said Chuck Lieberman, chief investment officer of Advisor Capital Management in New Jersey.
At 9:41 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 193.58 points, or 0.64%, at 30,209.09, the S&P 500 was up 16.83 points, or 0.46%, at 3,704.09. The Nasdaq Composite was down 7.66 points, or 0.06%, at 12,800.26.
Nine of the 11 major S&P sectors were higher, with energy stocks rising the most.
Microsoft, Paypal and Amazon.com were among the biggest drags on the Nasdaq.
Concerns over a new variant of the coronavirus and weakening economic data have weighed on Wall Street in recent sessions. But technology stocks have consistently outperformed their peers, thanks to the sectorâ€™s perceived resilience to virus-related disruptions.
Easy monetary policy, increased liquidity in the market and positive COVID-19 vaccine data has set the main indexes for strong annual gains, despite a rough start to the year.
Drugmaker Pfizer Inc rose 1.7% after a deal to supply the United States with 100 million additional doses of its COVID-19 vaccine by July.
Merck & Co Inc added 0.8% following its own COVID-19 treatment agreement with the United States.
Supernus Pharmaceuticals Inc jumped 15.8% after its experimental drug for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder met the main goal of a late-stage study in adults.
Electric-truck maker Nikola Corp fell 10.1% after it called off a deal to develop electric garbage trucks with recycling and waste disposal firm Republic Services Inc.
American Airlines Group and United Airlines Holdings rose 2.2% and 3.2%, respectively, as they outlined plans to bring back furloughed employees this month. The airline industry is set to receive about $15 billion in government support.
Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 3.83-to-1 ratio on the NYSE, and by a 2.19-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.
The S&P index recorded 27 new 52-week highs and no new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 177 new highs and no new low. (Reporting by Devik Jain and Ambar Warrick in Bengaluru; Editing by Bernard Orr and Sriraj Kalluvila)