Oil prices prop up Wall Street; Nasdaq hits record high

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - US stocks rose on Thursday, with the Nasdaq hitting a record high, helped by higher oil prices. Oil prices rose more than 1.5 per cent, rising for the second straight day, supported by an unexpected draw in US gasoline inventories.

The S&P 500 energy sector was up 0.9 per cent.

The fourth-quarter earnings season has been largely upbeat, with combined earnings of S&P 500 companies estimated to have risen 8.3 per cent, the highest in nine quarters.

However, Wall Street's reaction to corporate earnings has been muted as investors remain cautious given the recent run-up in the market and policy uncertainty under newly elected President Donald Trump.

"Investors are cautiously optimistic about the current environment," said Adam Sarhan, chief executive officer at 50 Parks Investment in Florida. "It's almost like a Goldilocks situation where it's neither too hot, nor too cold."

A report from the Labor Department showed the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits fell to a near 43-year low of 234,000 last week, pointing to tighter labor market conditions.

At 9:39 a.m. ET (10.39 pm Singapore time), the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 32.66 points, or 0.16 per cent, at 20,087. The S&P 500 was up 3.94 points, or 0.17 per cent, at 2,298.61 - just 2 points shy of its all-time high. The Nasdaq Composite was up 11.43 points, or 0.2 per cent, at 5,693.88, easing slightly from its record high of 5,695.94. Apple rose 0.38 per cent and was its biggest driver. Eight of the 11 major S&P sectors were higher.