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US markets end mostly higher as US-China trade talks intensify

The US markets ended mostly higher on Thursday as investors continued to monitor trade talks between the US and China, which are reportedly in their final stretch. Meanwhile, Trump said the China talks were moving along nicely even while taking yet another swipe at the Federal Reserve for raising interest rates last year. At the same time, there are reportedly major hurdles to overcome regarding US desires to maintain some tariffs on Chinese goods as a means to ensure Chinese adherence to any deal. Besides, New York Fed President John Williams said that current monetary policy is appropriate for how the economy is performing. He also added that changes in long-run economic fundamentals, like lower growth potential and projected inflation, means that interest rates are likely to be lower for longer than what we saw in the 1990s.

On the economic front, with the more closely watched monthly jobs report looming, the Labor Department released a report showing an unexpected decrease in first-time claims for US unemployment benefits in the week ended March 30. The report said initial jobless claims dipped to 202,000, a decrease of 10,000 from the previous week's revised level of 212,000. The drop surprised participants, who had expected jobless claims to inch up to 216,000 from the 211,000 originally reported for the previous week. With the unexpected decrease, initial jobless claims fell to their lowest level since hitting a matching number in December of 1969. The Labor Department said the less volatile four-week moving average also edged down to 213,500, a decrease of 4,000 from the previous week's revised average of 217,500. Continuing claims, a reading on the number of people receiving ongoing unemployment assistance, also slid by 38,000 to 1.717 million in the week ended March 23. The four-week moving average of continuing claims dropped to 1,743,250, a decrease of 8,000 from the previous week's unrevised average of 1,751,250.

Dow Jones Industrial Average surged 166.50 points or 0.64 percent to 26384.63 and S&P 500 was up by 5.99 points or 0.21 percent to 2879.39, while Nasdaq declined 3.77 points or 0.05 percent to 7891.78.

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