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NEW YORK, Sept 11 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks recovered from early losses on Thursday, with the S&P 500 managing a slight gain as energy prices and oil stocks turned higher and financials lent support.
The S&P energy index rose 0.1 percent, after trading down more than 1 percent earlier. Shares of Exxon Mobil, which had been down for much of the session, closed up 0.2 percent.
U.S. crude oil futures ended up 1.3 percent, while Brent was flat. U.S. crude prices have lost roughly 3 percent so far this month while the S&P energy index is down 3.8 percent.
"You've got a fairly good rally back in oil, which has certainly helped some of the stocks tied to that," said Rick Meckler, president of LibertyView Capital Management in Jersey City, New Jersey.
Weighing on the market earlier was data showing jobless claims unexpectedly rose, the second discouraging read on the labor market within a week.
The day's pause comes as investors debate whether equities have enough catalysts to push prices further upward, or whether a long-overdue correction may be around the corner.
One strategist, David Rosenberg of Canadian asset manager Gluskin Sheff, told Reuters on Thursday he thinks U.S. stocks have entered a corrective phase but that the underlying bull market remains intact.
The S&P 500 had closed at a record high Friday and the index is up 8.1 percent for the year so far.
Financials also helped lift the market, with JPMorgan Chase , up 0.9 percent, and Bank of America up 1.3 percent, among the biggest positives for the S&P 500.
"Their valuations are still reasonable, and the concern some investors have is that some of the higher-valuation (stocks) won't be able to survive a rise in interest rates," Meckler said.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 19.71 points, or 0.12 percent, to 17,049, the S&P 500 gained 1.76 points, or 0.09 percent, to 1,997.45 and the Nasdaq Composite added 5.28 points, or 0.12 percent, to 4,591.81.
The largest percentage gainer on the New York Stock Exchange was Vail Resorts, which rose 11.70 percent. The largest percentage decliner was Brady, down 7.68 percent.
Among the most active stocks on the NYSE were Bank of America; AK Steel, up 3.30 percent at $9.38; and Sprint , up 6.83 percent to $6.57.
On the Nasdaq, Apple, up 0.4 percent to $101.43; Facebook, up 0.6 percent to $77.92; and JDS Uniphase , up 10.3 percent to $13.36, were among the most actively traded.
Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by 1,720 to 1,324, for a 1.30-to-1 ratio on the upside; on the Nasdaq, 1,576 issues rose and 1,110 fell for a 1.42-to-1 ratio favoring advancers.
The broad S&P 500 index posted 16 new 52-week highs and two new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 70 new highs and 43 new lows. (Editing by Bernadette Baum and Nick Zieminski)