* ECB stands pat on interest rates; dovish on guidance
* U.S. jobless claims rose to 243,000 last week - report
* Apple top drag on S&P and Nasdaq
* Indexes up: Dow 0.15 pct, S&P 0.14 pct, Nasdaq 0.12 pct
(Adds details, comments, updates prices)
By Yashaswini Swamynathan
March 9 The S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial
Average were on track to snap a three-day losing streak on
Thursday, as bank stocks climbed amid signs of strength in the
labor market and a near-certain interest rate hike.
The S&P financial index rose 0.6 percent as
investors turned their attention to a crucial nonfarm payrolls
report on Friday that would bolster already sky-high odds of a
rate hike during the Federal Reserve's meeting on March 14-15.
Fueling the rise in the bank stocks was a Labor Department
report on Thursday that showed the number of Americans applying
for unemployment benefits rose to 243,000 last week, but
remained below 300,000 for the 105th week, pointing to a healthy
An improving U.S. labor market and inflation have prompted
unusually hawkish rhetoric from several Fed officials in the
past weeks, leading traders to price in a near 90 percent chance
of a quarter point rate increase next week.
"The market is setting up for the two-part symphony we are
going to see over the next four trading days, the first is
tomorrow's jobs number and then the Fed meeting, which is the
real big event," said Joe Brusuelas, chief economist at RSM US
A frenetic post-election rally on bets of reduced regulation
and tax cuts under President Donald Trump has been losing steam
as investors fret over valuations and the possibility of Fed
raising rates more aggressively.
"The fundamentals of the economy are sufficient to support
where we are at now, but for further upside, we'll need to see
progress on Trump's policies," said Brusuelas.
Meanwhile, the European Central Bank stood firm on its
stimulus program but said there was no longer a sense of urgency
in taking further action to counter deflation.
At 11:07 a.m. ET (1607 GMT), the Dow was up 32.27
points, or 0.15 percent, at 20,888, the S&P 500 was up
3.41 points, or 0.14 percent, at 2,366.39 and the Nasdaq
Composite was up 7.01 points, or 0.12 percent, at
Seven of the 11 major S&P sectors were higher, with energy
down 0.3 percent as oil prices slumped to their lowest
level since late November.
Johnson & Johnson was the top stock on the broader
S&P index and the Dow, up 1.2 percent after Jefferies raised its
price target on the healthcare conglomerate's stock.
Apple was the top drag on the S&P and the Nasdaq,
slipping 0.3 percent on chatter that iPhone 8 launch could be
American International Group edged up 0.5 percent at
$63.77 after Chief Executive Officer Peter Hancock said he would
Shares of e.l.f Beauty jumped 15 percent following
the cosmetics maker's better-than-expected quarterly revenue.
Declining issues outnumbered advancers on the NYSE by 1,721
to 1,071. On the Nasdaq, 1,481 issues rose and 1,170 fell.
The S&P 500 index showed 19 new 52-week highs and 10 new
lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 41 new highs and 31 new lows.
(Reporting by Yashaswini Swamynathan in Bengaluru; Editing by