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The U.S. national flag waves near shipping containers stacked high at the Port of Los Angeles, California on April 19, 2021, where records continue to be set for incoming cargo.

AFP via Getty Images

U.S. stocks are climbing on Thursday after initial jobless claims came in lower than expected.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average  rose 310 points, or 0.9%, while the S&P 500  added 1.2% and the  Nasdaq Composite  rose 1.7%.

Initial jobless claims continued to decline, falling to 444,000 in the latest week, according to the Labor Department.

The S&P 500 had dropped six of the last eight sessions amid growing concerns about rising inflation and the possibility the Federal Reserve will tighten policy in response. Minutes from the Federal Reserve’s last meeting showed that policy makers thought it may be appropriate to start talking about reducing bond purchases if economic activity continues to pick up.

Economists at Goldman Sachs said the disappointing April employment report makes that discussion about tapering “stale.”

It was also the first opportunity for traders in Asia and Europe to react to the latest minutes of the Federal Reserve’s interest-rate setting committee. In Australia as well as Europe, stocks rebounded but not by the degree to which they slumped on Wednesday. The Hang Seng slipped 0.5% in Hong Kong.

The market focus also is on cryptocurrencies, after the 11% slide in Bitcoin on Wednesday. The cryptocurrency reclaimed the $40,000 level in early action.

Virgin Galactic Holdings  (ticker: SPCE) stock rose 9.3% after the company said its test flight for its SpaceShipTwo Unity will be Saturday, May 22.

Cisco Systems (CSCO) fell 0.5% after the networking services and equipment maker’s earnings outlook disappointed investors, with the company citing a component shortage.

Wendy’s  (WEN) stock gained 1.4% after getting upgraded to Buy from hold at Argus.

ViacomCBS  (VIAC) stock gained 3.3% after getting upgraded to Buy from Underperform at Bank of America.

SolarEdge Technologies  (SEDG) stock gained 5.3% after getting upgraded to Buy from Neutral at Goldman Sachs.

Merck & Co. (MRK) stock dropped 0.7% after getting downgraded to Hold from Buy at Argus.

Write to Jacob Sonenshine at jacob.sonenshine@barrons.com