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* Nasdaq hits fresh record high
* Weekly jobless claims fall from over two-year high
* Conagra eyes best day in over 30 years
* Cisco gains on helping boost Dow
* Indexes up: Dow 0.3%, S&P 0.2%, Nasdaq 0.3% (Updates to open)
By Uday Sampath Kumar
Dec 19 (Reuters) - Wall Street hovered near record highs on Thursday as U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Washington and Beijing would sign an initial trade deal in early January, with traders also shrugging off the impeachment of President Donald Trump.
In an interview with CNBC on Thursday, Mnuchin said the agreement had already been put down on paper, and that it would not be subject to any renegotiation.
The Nasdaq hit a fresh record high, riding a wave that began last week with a breakthrough in trade talks between the world’s top two economies and hopes for a smoother Brexit, which also lifted global sentiment and eased recession fears.
Data on Thursday showed the U.S. labor market was only strengthening, with the number of Americans filing applications for unemployment benefits dropping from more than a two-year high last week.
The S&P 500 was trading just below its all-time high. The benchmark index hit record highs for the past five consecutive sessions in its longest streak since January 2018.
The market also looked past Trump’s impeachment, as the Republican-controlled Senate is widely expected not to convict him and remove him from office.
With no major update on the U.S.-China trade war or economic policy decision expected in what is left of 2019, analysts said the market had little incentive to move much from current levels.
Trading volumes are also expected to taper off ahead of the Christmas holidays.
“The market seems to be stalling out, unless people start to use that as a reason to take some money off the table, which I don’t necessarily see happening,” said Robert Pavlik, chief investment strategist at SlateStone Wealth LLC in New York.
At 10:42 a.m. ET the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 72.60 points, or 0.26%, at 28,311.88, the S&P 500 was up 5.61 points, or 0.18%, at 3,196.75 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 25.81 points, or 0.29%, at 8,853.54.
Conagra Brands rose 17.9%, on track for its best day in over 30 years, after the Slim Jim maker beat quarterly sales and profit estimates.
Cisco was up 2.6% as Barclays raised its rating on the stock to “overweight”.
Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 1.25-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and by a 1.12-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.
The S&P index recorded 24 new 52-week highs and no new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 71 new highs and 24 new lows.
Reporting by Uday Sampath and Abhishek Manikandan in Bengaluru Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli