US initial jobless claims, a rough way to measure layoffs, rose to 778,000 in the week ending November 21, following an upwardly revised 748,000 in the prior week, the Department of Labor reported on Wednesday. Economists polled by Dow Jones expected initial jobless claims to come in at 733,000.
"For the last several weeks, the market has been looking through bad news, but then you get the statistic about the unemployment claim and the market focuses again on the short term difficulties we are having". It was also optimistic about the incoming Biden government.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 197.14 points, or 0.66%, to 29,849.1, the S&P 500 lost 12.24 points, or 0.34%, to 3,623.17 and the Nasdaq Composite added 29.74 points, or 0.25%, to 12,067.06.
Seven of the 11 primary S&P 500 sectors dipped, with energy closing down 2.42 percent, leading the laggards.
Trading volumes were expected to be thin, ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday on Thursday.
Recent data suggesting a COVID-19 vaccine could be available before the end of the year has put the USA market on course for its best November ever.
Market sources say the Dow rallied on optimism that the U.S. presidential transition will proceed smoothly. A recent Reuters poll showed analysts believe the S&P 500 will gain 9% between now and the end of 2021. The index has surged about 66% since the coronavirus-led crash in March and is up about 12% so far this year.
The gains that the Dow received put it up 13% for the month, which reportedly is the largest monthly gain it has had since 1987.
Shares of major U.S. banks including JPMorgan Chase & Co and Citigroup were down between 0.5 percent and 1.7 percent in premarket trading, while technology heavyweights Facebook Inc and Microsoft Corp gained about 0.4 percent.
Declining issues outnumbered advancers on the NYSE by a 1.27-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.03-to-1 ratio favored decliners.
S&P 500 closed at an all-time high after rallying 1.6%.