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Wall St closes higher, dollar rebounds heading into US holiday

By Stephen Culp

NEW YORK (Reuters) -U.S. stocks ended higher on Wednesday, led by interest rate-sensitive megacaps, while the dollar bounced back from a 2-1/2-month low as economic data suggested the labor market is not cooling as quickly as markets, or the Federal Reserve, might prefer.

All three major U.S. stock indexes ended up ahead of the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday on Thursday, with tech and tech-adjacent momentum stocks providing much of the lift.

"It's a standard day-before-Thanksgiving rally, with light volume and a moderately upward bias," said Ryan Detrick, chief market strategist at Carson Group in Omaha. "But really, that's kind of a microcosm for this entire year."

After Tuesday's closing bell, chipmaker Nvidia reported revenue well above Wall Street expectations, but its shares shed 2.5% due to the company's downbeat China sales outlook.

A spate of economic data - including jobless claims, durable goods and consumer sentiment - suggested that the economy is softening after about 20 months of policy tightening from the Fed, but remains resilient enough to potentially avoid recession.

Market participants have begun to shift their focus to the timing of the Fed's first rate cut.

"We can argue over when the potential first cut will come, but the bottom line is that the Fed has likely stopped hiking," Detrick added. "So it will no longer be a headwind for equities going into next year."

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 184.74 points, or 0.53%, to 35,273.03, the S&P 500 gained 18.43 points, or 0.41%, to 4,556.62 and the Nasdaq Composite added 65.88 points, or 0.46%, to 14,265.86.

European stocks hit a two-month high, while a gauge of euro zone volatility dipped to its lowest level since July.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index rose 0.30% and MSCI's gauge of stocks across the globe gained 0.14%.

Emerging market stocks lost 0.56%. MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan closed 0.46% lower, while Japan's Nikkei rose 0.29%.

The greenback rebounded from a 2-1/2 month low after the jobless claims data landed well below consensus.

The dollar index rose 0.31%, with the euro down 0.2% to $1.0887.

The Japanese yen weakened 0.80% versus the greenback at 149.60 per dollar, while Sterling was last trading at $1.2492, down 0.36% on the day.

Benchmark Treasury yields wobbled after fairly robust jobless claims data raised the question as to whether a market that expects the Fed to begin cutting interest rates as early as June 2024 is being overly optimistic.

Benchmark 10-year notes last rose 2/32 in price to yield 4.41%, from 4.418% late on Tuesday.

The 30-year bond last rose 19/32 in price to yield 4.5446%, from 4.58% late on Tuesday.

While Wall Street's rally was modest but broad-based, energy stocks were the sole decliner among the S&P 500 11 major sectors, falling in tandem with crude prices.

Oil tumbled as much as 5% earlier in the session after the OPEC+ group of oil producing nations postponed their scheduled Sunday meeting, raising questions about crude production cuts.

But crude prices settled well above the day's lows.

"Clearly the news from OPEC caused a 'sell first, ask questions later' mentality, but (oil prices) have bounced off the morning lows and cooler heads have prevailed," Detrick said. "The truth is no one knows what OPEC is up to."

U.S. crude dipped 0.86% to settle at $77.10 per barrel, while Brent settled at $81.96, down 0.59% on the day.

Gold prices dipped below the key $2,000 per ounce level in opposition to the dollar's strength.

Spot gold dropped 0.4% to $1,989.79 an ounce.

(Reporting by Stephen Culp; Additional reporting by Amanda Cooper in London; editing by Deepa Babington and Will Dunham)