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Overnight Markets: Wall Street gains before payrolls report

Homebuilders were among the best performers, with Lennar and D.R. Horton increasing more than 1.9%.

 
Overnight Markets: Wall Street gains before payrolls report

Wall Street rose on Thursday, led by gains in energy and financial shares, ahead of Friday’s payrolls report that may provide a clearer picture on the economy’s health and path for interest rates.

The Dow Jones industrial average ended 0.26% higher at 16,944 points and the S&P 500 gained 0.35% to 1,993. The Nasdaq Composite added 0.09% to 4,707.

Investors were looking to Friday for a comprehensive labour report that is expected to show an addition of 190,000 jobs in February, up from a gain of 151,000 in January.

Earlier, a report showed that the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits unexpectedly rose last week, but the underlying trend continued to point to a strengthening labour market.

Energy stocks rose after Brent crude prices, which increased about 35% from last month's lows, were largely steady.

Financials also gained but remained down 7% in 2016 as investors fear that low oil prices will force energy companies to default on their debts.

Homebuilders were among the best performers Thursday, with Lennar Corp. and D.R. Horton Inc. increasing more than 1.9%.

Healthcare shares declined, pulled down by a 1.91% dip in Celgene Corp. Herbalife fell 7.02% after the multilevel marketer said it had overstated growth in the number of new members due to a database error. Biogen Inc. and Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc. declined more than 1.8%.

In earnings news, Kroger dropped 7.01% after the largest US supermarket operator's quarterly sales missed estimates. Costco Wholesale Corp. slipped 0.8%, paring a 3.5% retreat, after quarterly earnings trailed analysts’ estimates.

In Asia, stocks markets wavered between positive and negative on Friday, largely ignoring another positive finish on Wall Street overnight.

Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 was down 0.06% in morning trade; across the Korean Strait, the Kospi was lower by 0.22%. Chinese markets oscillated between gains and losses, with the Shanghai composite up 0.1%. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index bucked the trend, tacking on 0.65%. Down Under, the S&P/ASX 200 index was also up 0.24%.

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