Wall Street Drifts Higher Thursday

(AP) -- Wall Street is moving modestly higher in early trading Thursday as a strong rally from earlier this week loses steam.

The S&P 500 was up 0.2% in the first hour of trading. The index is coming off three straight gains built on hope for a coming economic revival.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 33 points, or 0.1%, to 25,583, while the Nasdaq composite rose 0.2%. All three indexes wavered between small gains and losses in the early going.

Gains for health care stocks were helping to keep the market close to its highest level since early March, before the worst of this year's sell-off for stocks on worries about the severe recession caused by the response to the coronavirus pandemic. Johnson & Johnson was up 1.5%, Merck rose 2.3% and Pfizer added 2%.

They helped offset losses for banks and energy stocks. Facebook and Twitter also fell modestly as President Donald Trump prepared to sign an executive order aimed at curbing liability protections for social media companies.

Thursday's modest moves mark a breather from big gains made earlier this week as investors moved into stocks that would benefit most from a reopening economy. Governments around the country and world are slowly lifting restrictions meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, while also promising massive amounts of financial aid to stem the current, severe recession.

Longer-term Treasury yields rose Thursday after a government report showed that the number of workers filing for unemployment benefits dipped for the eighth straight week, though the numbers remain incredibly high.

Perhaps more importantly, the number of continuing claims for unemployment fell to 21 million from 25 million. If that continues, economists said it could be a sign that more people are going back to work as states begin their reopenings.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury ticked up to 0.68% from 0.67% late Wednesday. It tends to move with optimism about the economy's strength and inflation. The 30-year yield also rose, while the two-year yield slipped.

In Europe, the German DAX returned 0.6%, and the French CAC 40 rose 1.1%. The FTSE 100 in London added 1%.

Asian markets were mixed as tensions continue to heighten between the United States and China. The latest flashpoint between them stems from Beijing exerting more control over Hong Kong, and investors are worried about the risk that trade tensions between the world's largest economies could reignite.

The Hang Seng in Hong Kong fell 0.7%, while stocks in Shanghai added 0.3%. The Nikkei 225 in Tokyo rose 2.3%, and the South Korean Kospi slipped 0,1%.

A barrel of U.S. crude oil for delivery in July slipped 0.5% to $32.65. Brent crude, the international standard, was virtually flat at $35.43 per barrel.