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Wall Street closes higher as new stimulus talks ease shutdown worries

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(Reuters) – U.S. stocks ended in positive territory on Thursday as fresh stimulus hopes buoyed investor sentiment toward the end of a session fraught with worries over mounting shutdowns and layoffs linked to spiraling COVID-19 infection rates.

All three major stock indexes got a healthy boost after Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had agreed to revive talks to craft a new fiscal relief package.

“We’ve seen this playbook before, where investors flock to the safety of tech and growth when the economy shows signs of slowing down,” said Ryan Detrick, senior market strategist at LPL Financial in Charlotte, North Carolina. “But everything changes now that there’s hope of the next stimulus plan.”

“Clearly markets are bouncing on that optimism.”

Even so, spiraling COVID-19 infection rates turned investors toward market-leading growth stocks that have shown resiliency to the pandemic.

The Philadelphia SE Semiconductor index .SOX, which thrived throughout the health crisis, handily outperformed the broader market, rising 1.6%.

“In a COVID world, semis are a safer play as they’re not impacted as much due to shutdowns,” Detrick added.

The number of U.S. workers filing new claims for unemployment benefits unexpectedly rose last week, the data painting a grim picture of increasingly elevated layoffs as spiking coronavirus cases and subsequent shutdowns continue to hobble the labor market.

Record infection numbers have caused COVID hospitalizations to soar by 50% and have prompted schools and businesses to close once again, thwarting the recovery of the world’s largest economy from the deepest recession since the Great Depression.

FILE PHOTO: The New York Stock Exchange is pictured in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., November 10, 2020. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

The Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI rose 44.81 points, or 0.15%, to 29,483.23, the S&P 500 .SPX gained 14.08 points, or 0.39%, to 3,581.87 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC added 103.11 points, or 0.87%, to 11,904.71.

Of the 11 major sectors in the S&P 500, energy .SPNY and tech shares .SPLRCT gained the most, while utilities .SPLRCU and healthcare .SPXHC were the only percentage losers.

Third-quarter reporting season is nearing the finish line, with 472 of the companies in the S&P 500 having reported. Of those, 84.5% have beaten consensus, according to Refinitiv data.

Macy’s Inc M.N reported a 20% plunge in quarterly same-store sales and the department store forecast a tough holiday season.

Chipmaker Nvidia Corp NVDA.O forecast a slight dip in data center chip sales but the company beat quarterly revenue expectations.

L Brands Inc LB.N surged 17.7% after posting better-than-expected quarterly results and a 56% jump in same-store sales.

Tesla Inc TSLA.O shares rose for the third straight session to touch a record high, riding the wave of its pending inclusion in the S&P 500, announced on Monday.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 1.77-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.80-to-1 ratio favored advancers.

The S&P 500 posted seven new 52-week highs and no new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 87 new highs and 10 new lows.

Volume on U.S. exchanges was 10.94 billion shares, compared with the 10.55 billion average over the last 20 trading days.

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