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US markets closed higher on Thursday

The US markets closed higher on Thursday, as investors looked past the latest headlines and tweets coming from the White House and turned their focus to earnings season, which kicks off on Friday. Geopolitical issues appeared to fade after President Donald Trump tweeted that a military strike on Syria may not be imminent. Meanwhile, worries about a potential global trade war are persisting, as a Chinese government denied Thursday that recently announced policy changes constitute concessions to the Trump administration in the countries' trade skirmish.

On the economy front, the rate of layoffs in the US fell in the first week of April and returned near the lowest levels since the early 1970s. Initial jobless claims fell by 9,000 to 233,000 in the week ended April 7. The more stable monthly average of claims rose by 1,750 to 230,000. The number of people already collecting unemployment benefits, known as continuing claims, also increased by 53,000 to 1.87 million. Layoffs are near a 45-year low and show no sign of rising. Companies increasingly complain about a shortage of skilled labor with the unemployment rate at a 17-year low of 4.1%, making it harder for them to fill a record number of job openings.

Meanwhile, the import price index was flat in March because of the lower cost of oil. Excluding fuel, import prices rose 0.2% last month. The cost of energy, mainly petroleum and natural gas, fell for the second month in a row and temporarily caused the price of imports to ease up. The flat reading in the US import price index was the smallest since last July. Despite no change in March, the rate of import inflation over the past 12 months edged up to 3.6% from 3.5%.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 293.6 points or 1.21 percent to 24,483.05, the Nasdaq gained 71.222 points or 1.01 percent to 7,140.25, while the S&P 500 was up by 21.8 points or 0.83 percent to 2,663.99.

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