Wall Street moved higher in early afternoon trading on Thursday as health stocks got a boost after Republicans unveiled a bill to repeal Obamacare and the energy sector rebounded as oil prices rose from multi-month lows. Also, Oracle shares have risen after an upbeat forecast. The S&P healthcare index rose 1.58 percent to hit a record high as investors cheered the bill, which is aimed at curbing Medicaid funding and reshaping subsidies to low-income people for private insurance. United Health, Johnson and Johnson and Gilead rose between 1 percent and 5.3 percent, and were among the biggest boosts on the three major indexes.
The Nasdaq biotechnology index rose 1.96 percent and is now up more than 9 percent for the week. A slight rebound in oil prices also relieved some pressure. U.S. crude was up 1.4 percent at $43.16 per barrel, while global benchmark Brent was 1.76 percent higher at $45.62. Since peaking in late February, crude has dropped around 20 percent, skidding into bear market territory, despite OPEC-led efforts to stabilize the market. The S&P energy index is the worst performing sector so far this year, having lost about 15 percent. The broader S&P 500 index rose about 9 percent in the same period.
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At 12:57 p.m. ET (1657 GMT), the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 25.49 points, or 0.12 percent, at 21,435.52, the S&P 500 was up 5.26 points, or 0.21 percent, at 2,440.87. The Nasdaq Composite index was up 20.76 points, or 0.33 percent, at 6,254.72. Investors are also concerned that the drop in oil prices could affect inflation. Inflation remains stubbornly below the Federal Reserve’s 2 percent target, even as the central bank adopts a hawkish tone regarding future rate hikes.
“Right now the bond market seems to be convinced that inflation is going to remain much lower than what the Fed thinks,” Randy Frederick, vice president of trading and derivatives for Charles Schwab in Austin, Texas. Economic data on Thursday showed jobless claims for last week increased by 3,000 to 241,000, but remain at levels consistent with a tight labor market. Among stocks, Accenture was off 3.9 percent after the consulting and outsourcing services provider trimmed its annual revenue forecast.
Oracle, up 8.5 percent, provided the biggest boost to the S&P after the company forecast an upbeat current-quarter profit. Tesla was up 1.9 percent at $383.35 after the company said it was in exploratory talks with the Shanghai municipal government to establish an electric vehicle manufacturing plant in China. Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by 1,894 to 943. On the Nasdaq, 1,774 issues rose and 1,0003 fell.