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US markets closed higher; S&P snaps four-day losing streak

The US markets closed higher on Thursday, with the S&P 500 snapping a four-session losing streak on the back of gains in the technology, industrials and materials sectors. Traders focused on continued progress on tax legislation and looked ahead to the monthly jobs report due Friday. Both the House and Senate have passed their own versions of the tax bill and now the two needs to bridge their differences and agree on a final bill for President Donald Trump to sign. The Republican-led Senate agreed to begin formal negotiations with the House, spurring hopes the final tax overhaul will be completed by a self-imposed deadline of December 22.

On the economy front, initial US jobless claims, a way to measure layoffs, fell by 2,000 to 236,000 in the seven days ended December 2. The more stable monthly average of claims slipped by 750 and stood at 241,500. The number of people already collecting unemployment benefits, known as continuing claims, declined by 52,000 to 1.91 million. The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits each week has settled around 230,000, reflecting the strongest US labor market since Bill Clinton was president. New claims are still elevated in Puerto Rico a few months after the island was devastated by Hurricane Maria, but it's only had a tiny effect on overall US claims.

Meanwhile, consumer borrowing surged in October by the largest amount in 11 months. Total consumer credit increased $20.5 billion in October to a record seasonally adjusted $3.8 trillion, posting an annual growth rate of 6.5%. This is the second straight strong monthly gain in consumer borrowing. Credit rose a revised $19.2 billion in September, down only slightly from the prior estimate of a $20.8 billion. Revolving credit, which is mostly made up of credit-card loans, accelerated to an annual rate of 9.9% in October, faster than the 7.3% gain in September. Non-revolving credit, which covers loans for education and cars, rose at an annual rate of 5.3% in October, slightly slower than the 5.7% rate in September.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 70.57 points or 0.29 percent to 24,211.48, the Nasdaq gained 36.466 points or 0.54 percent to 6,812.84, while the S&P 500 edged higher by 7.71 points or 0.29 percent to 2,636.98. 

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