By Echo Wang
(Reuters) - Wall Street's main indexes closed higher on Thursday, led by growth stocks in light trading, as U.S. unemployment data signaled the Federal Reserve's interest rate hikes might be starting to dent labor market strength in its bid to fight inflation.
All 11 S&P 500 sector indexes rose, with communication service and technology as the biggest winner with gains of nearly 3%.
"It's just relief," said Keith Buchanan, portfolio manager at GLOBALT Investments in Atlanta. "Selling pressure has been overwhelming the market recently and we could be having a break. That allowed room for stocks to move, and with lower volume (that) can materialize into a pretty good day."
Apple Inc, Alphabet Inc, Microsoft Corp and Amazon.com Inc, whose shares have been battered in the past few sessions, each gained more than 2.5%.
The U.S. Labor Department reported an increase in the number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits last week. But the data indicates a tight U.S. job market even as the Fed works to cool demand for labor in its bid to lower inflation.
The yield on 10-year Treasury notes fell 2.2 basis points to 3.864% on the news.
The Fed's aggressive interest rate hikes have hammered equities this year, with the benchmark S&P 500 shedding 19.3% and the tech-heavy Nasdaq tumbling nearly 33%.
The technology, consumer discretionary and communication services sectors - which house several rate-sensitive high growth shares - are down between 29% and 40% this year, making them the worst performers among S&P 500 sector indexes.
Energy shares have bucked the trend with stellar annual gains of 57%.
Wall Street's main indexes dropped more than 1% on Wednesday, with the Nasdaq Composite Index hitting a 2022 closing low as rising COVID cases in China and geopolitical tensions added to fears of a likely recession in 2023.
However, investor preference for high-dividend yielding stocks with steady earnings has limited losses in the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which is down just 8.5% for the year.
The Dow rose 345.09 points, or 1.05%, to 33,220.8; the S&P 500 gained 66.06 points, or 1.75%, at 3,849.28; and the Nasdaq Composite added 264.80 points, or 2.59%, at 10,478.09.
Tesla Inc shares rose after Chief Executive Elon Musk told staff they should not be "bothered by stock market craziness."
For 2022, Tesla's 66% slump and Amazon.com's 50% drop played a big part in the S&P 500 consumer discretionary sector's 38% loss. Some $1.6 trillion worth of shareholder value evaporated after investors abandoned high-growth stocks with pricey earnings multiples.
Volume on U.S. exchanges was 8.78 billion shares, compared with the 10.95 billion average for the full session over the last 20 trading days.
Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by a 4.80-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 4.30-to-1 ratio favored advancers.
The S&P 500 posted one new 52-week high and no new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 75 new highs and 160 new lows.
(Reporting by Echo Wang in New York; Additional reporting by Ankika Biswas and Amruta Khandekar in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur, Anil D'Silva and Richard Chang)