By Rodrigo Campos
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The S&P 500 hit an intraday record high for the seventh time in eight sessions on Thursday after the European Central Bank cut rates to record lows and outlined further accommodative monetary policy actions.
After mostly pricing in the ECB's move, the market is expected to focus on Friday's U.S. payrolls report for May as it looks for confirmation of a pick-up in hiring and economic activity in the second quarter.
The ECB cut rates including the deposit rate to -0.10 percent and will move further to persuade banks to lend. ECB head Mario Draghi said the bank's governing council will intensify preparations related to outright purchases of asset-backed securities.
Futures had drifted higher after the rate cut and added to gains on Draghi's remarks. The euro dropped against the U.S. dollar and yields on euro zone government debt fell.
"Often times when there's high expectations, the (equities) market will sell on the news," said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities in New York.
"Draghi did not disappoint and in 'do whatever it takes' fashion he pulled out all the stops."
Hogan added that the market is now focusing on Friday's job report and he expects volumes to thin into the afternoon.
"We certainly want to see something better than what was reported on the ADP data," he said.
Private employers added a much lower-than-forecast 179,000 jobs to their payrolls last month after hiring 215,000 workers in April, payrolls processor ADP said Wednesday.
Supporting the market, the number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits rose last week, but the underlying trend continued to point to a firming labour market.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 24.17 points or 0.14 percent, to 16,761.7, the S&P 500 gained 1.93 points or 0.1 percent, to 1,929.81 and the Nasdaq Composite added 9.98 points or 0.23 percent, to 4,261.62.
Sprint has agreed to pay about $40 per share to buy T-Mobile US, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters on Wednesday, marking further progress in the attempt to merge the third and fourth-biggest U.S. mobile network operators. Sprint shares fell 1.2 percent to $9.29 while T-Mobile US dropped 3.3 percent to $33.16.
Rite Aid shares slid 11.8 percent to $7.50 after it posted sales and gave an outlook below expectations.
Ciena Corp shares jumped 16.5 percent to $22.12 after the company posted earnings that beat expectations and gave a revenue outlook above forecasts.
(Reporting by Rodrigo Campos; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Nick Zieminski)
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