* 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 (Reuters) - 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 labor market.
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 LLP.
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 5,844.57.
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 delayed.
American International Group edged up 0.5 percent at $63.77 after Chief Executive Officer Peter Hancock said he would resign.
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 Sriraj Kalluvila)