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US: Stocks gain ahead of jobs report


[NEW YORK] Wall Street stocks finished modestly higher on Thursday despite another drop in oil prices ahead of Friday's eagerly anticipated US jobs report for January.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 79.92 points (0.49 per cent) at 16,416.58.

The broad-based S&P 500 added 2.92 (0.15 per cent) at 1,915.45, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index climbed 5.32 (0.12 per cent) to 4,509.56.

US stocks advanced despite veering into negative territory a couple of times during the session, as oil prices closed lower and US data showed a drop in fourth-quarter productivity and a rise in weekly jobless claims.

Industrial stocks were especially strong, with Caterpillar rising 4.3 per cent and Alcoa 10.1 per cent.

"Things are mixed but the stock market is actually performing surprisingly well, given the downbeat economic news we received this morning," said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at BMO Private Bank.

"The market seems pretty resilient." Friday's employment report is expected to show the US economy added 188,000 jobs, down from a December surge of 292,000.

ConocoPhillips slumped 8.6 per cent after announcing it would slash its dividend and cut its capital budget in response to low oil prices. ConocoPhillips lost US$39 million in the fourth quarter.

CBS advanced 0.3 per cent on news that chairman Sumner Redstone, 92, would step down following a run of fragile health.

CBS said Leslie Moonves was elected chairman and will keep the titles of president and chief executive.

Viacom, another media company that had been chaired by Redstone, rose 2.3 per cent after announcing Mr Redstone would be replaced by chief executive Philippe Dauman and shift into the role of chairman emeritus.

Ralph Lauren plummeted 22.2 per cent as the apparel maker slashed its 2016 sales and profit margin forecast due to the strong dollar.


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