NEW YORK CITY, RAW – The Dow Jones Industrial Average has closed at a record high, bolstered by an upbeat weekly jobless claims report, while shares of vaccine makers dipped after US President Joe Biden backed plans to waive patents on COVID-19 shots.

Lifted by Apple Inc, the S&P 500 rose after a Labor Department report showed initial claims for state unemployment benefits totalled a seasonally adjusted 498,000 for the week ended May 1, compared with 590,000 in the prior week.

Investors were awaiting a more comprehensive non-farm payrolls report on Friday for clues on the strength of the labour market and potentially the US Federal Reserve’s stance on monetary policy.

“Investors are encouraged by the low-interest rates and the stimulus that the government is putting into the economy. We’re also seeing substantial increases in economic projections and earnings forecasts,” said Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at CFRA Research.

Pharmaceutical companies dropped after the White House said Biden made the decision to back a proposed waiver for COVID-19 vaccine intellectual property rights.

Shares in Pfizer Inc, Moderna Inc and Novavax Inc, all involved in the making of COVID-19 vaccines, fell.

Johnson & Johnson was near unchanged.

The S&P 500 healthcare sector index slipped while the Nasdaq biotechnology index also dropped.

Moderna’s shares cut some losses after it said countries around the globe would continue buying its COVID-19 vaccine for years even if patents on the shots are waived.

The S&P 500 financials index was among the top performers.

“One sector we are seeing a lot of opportunities in is the financial sector. We see it as one that should benefit from higher interest rates and a stronger economic recovery,” said Ann Guntli, portfolio manager at Chicago-based RMB Capital.

Microsoft Corp, Apple and Amazon.com Inc were up under 1.0 per cent for most of the session.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.92 per cent to end at 34,545.11 points while the S&P 500 gained 0.82 per cent to 4,201.58 and the Nasdaq Composite climbed 0.37 per cent to 13,632.84.

Costco Wholesale jumped after the retailer said late on Wednesday that its April sales surged 33.5 per cent.

That rally helped push the S&P 500 consumers staple index higher.

Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc rose after the drug maker reported a better than expected quarterly profit and said it expected demand for its COVID-19 antibody therapy to hold up.

Uber Technologies Inc tumbled after it signalled it would pay drivers more to get cars back on the road as the pandemic recedes and disclosed a $US600 million ($A773 million) charge to provide UK drivers with benefits.