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S&P 500 flat as investors weigh trade tensions; TJX surges

(Reuters) – The S&P 500 index was largely unchanged on Thursday as growing U.S.-China trade tensions and concerns about a rebound from a coronavirus-led economic slump were offset by an upbeat outlook from retailer TJX.

The discount chain’s shares .TJX jumped 7.6% to a more than two-month high and were the biggest boost to the benchmark S&P 500 .SPX after it flagged strong sales at its stores that had reopened post-coronavirus lockdowns.

A fall in unemployment claims from the previous week also lifted sentiment as the reading reaffirmed views that the worst of the pandemic’s damage on the labor market was over.

“The trajectory of job losses has come down dramatically (and) as you’re going to start to see the reopening of several states, we will see some jobs come back,” said Edward Moya, senior market analyst at OANDA.

“We’re probably in for a couple more weeks of bad initial jobless claims and then we’re going start to see things bottom out.”

A Wall Street rally from April has slowed this month as investors weighed massive stimulus measures against worsening economic indicators and the return of U.S.-China trade tensions to the forefront.

On Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo further criticized Beijing’s handling of the outbreak.

At 9:58 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI was up 50.65 points, or 0.21%, at 24,626.55, the S&P 500 .SPX was down 0.36 points, or 0.01%, at 2,971.25, and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC was down 14.41 points, or 0.15%, at 9,361.37.

Analysts said investors were now watching for the S&P 500 to cross 3,000 points, a key psychological level that could bolster risk appetite.

Eight of the major 11 S&P indexes were trading higher, with the consumer discretionary index .SPLRCD leading gains.

Best Buy Co Inc (BBY.N) fell 2.1% as the electronics retailer reported a 5.3% drop in quarterly same-store sales due to the virus, while L Brands Inc (LB.N) surged 15.2% despite posting worse-than-expected quarterly results.

TJX’s smaller rival Ross Stores Inc (ROST.O) jumped 7.8%.

Advancing issues almost matched decliners on the NYSE and the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded five new 52-week highs and no new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 31 new highs and two new lows.

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