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By Geoffrey Smith 

Investing.com — U.S. stock markets opened at record highs again on Thursday, shrugging off concerns about a slowing economy, spreading Covid-19 and a hurricane lashing New York City and a good part of the north-east of the country. 

By 9:40 AM ET (1340 GMT), the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 114 points, or 0.3%, at 35,427 points. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite both advanced 0.5% to new highs. 

Earlier, the Labor Department said that initial jobless claims fell to a new post-pandemic low of 340,000 suggesting that the latest wave of Covid-19 in the U.S. is still not triggering higher lay-offs. 

However, analysts cautioned that that may overstate the actual strength of the labor market at a time when deaths from Covid-19 are running at an average of over 1,400 a day and the incidence of new cases is near record highs. 

“Claims tell us nothing about the pace of hiring, which appears to bearing the brunt of the Delta hit,” said Pantheon Macroeconomics chief economist Ian Shepherdson. “Firms always prefer to slow the pace of hiring before they take the more drastic step of laying off existing staff, and in today’s extremely tight labor market we think the bar for layoffs is even higher than usual.”

Private-payrolls processor ADP indicated that the pace of hiring may have slown in August on Wednesday, with a monthly report that showed private-sector jobs rising much less than expected. However, a similar number from ADP last month had been followed by an official report showing nearly 1 million jobs gained. 

Among early movers, Chewy (NYSE:CHWY) fell over 7% after disappointing the market with quarterly figures that suggested the pandemic-era boom in pet ownership is slowing, while ChargePoint (NYSE:CHPT) stock rose over 9% after its quarterly update showed electric vehicles gaining market share in the U.S. and Europe (where the group’s charging infrastructure is concentrated) faster than expected.

Elsewhere, Alibaba ADRs (NYSE:BABA) rose 1.1%, as the market took a relaxed view of news that it intends to divert some $15 billion of profit over the next five years to the government’s ‘common prosperity’ program. The move arguably reduces the risk of more aggressive regulatory action against the e-commerce giant, while cynics suggested it might also improve the company’s capital discipline. 

Hill-Rom (NYSE:HRC) stock meanwhile rose 3.4% as it confirmed its sale to medical devices group Baxter (NYSE:BAX) for just over $10 billion.

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