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US stocks volatile as jobless claims remain high

May 21 2020 16:06
AFP
Traders work on the floor of at the closing bell o

Traders work on the floor of at the closing bell of the Dow Industrial Average at the New York Stock Exchange on October 31, 2018. (Photo: Bryan R. Smith, AFP)

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Wall Street stocks edged higher early Thursday in volatile trading following another high US jobless claims report and as US-China friction rises, sharpening concerns of another trade war.

About 15 minutes into trading, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 0.3% at 24 660.66 after opening in the red.

The broad-based S&P 500 also added 0.2% at 2 976.78, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index rose 0.3 percent to 9 403.66.

The Labor Department reported that another 2.43 million US workers applied for unemployment benefits last week, bringing the total since mid-March to a massive 38.6 million following coronavirus shutdowns.

After bottoming out in March as much of the US economy suddenly shut down, stocks have mostly risen in April and May as Washington has enacted aggressive stimulus measures.

But investors increasingly view tensions between Washington and Beijing as a risk to stocks in the coming months, as US President Donald Trump loudly blames China for the coronavirus outbreak that has claimed more than 90,000 American lives.

Beijing's latest response came a day after Trump blamed China for "mass worldwide killing" in a tweet.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a press briefing, "We have persisted in speaking the truth, presenting the truth and speaking with reason, doing our utmost to protect the lives and health of the people."

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