trader, NYSE
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  • US stocks pared losses but the S&P 500 and Dow still closed in the red on Thursday.
  • Spending at US retailers and restaurants handedly beat economist expectations and soared in August
  • Keith Gill's former employer was reportedly fined for not properly monitoring the meme-stock trader's activity.
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US stocks fluctuated into the close, with the S&P 500 and Dow ending slightly in the red Thursday, as traders dissected how the latest batch of economic data will impact the Federal Reserve's timeline for tapering back its asset purchases. The materials and energy sectors lagged in the S&P 500.

Spending at US retailers and restaurants handedly beat economist expectations and soared in August. Retail sales gained 0.7% last month, while economists surveyed by Bloomberg expected sales to drop by 0.8% through the month.

Meanwhile, more Americans filed for unemployment than expected last week. Initial jobless claims jumped to an unadjusted 332,000 last week, versus 330,000 expected. It also snapped a two-week streak of declines and placed claims just above pandemic-era lows.

Here's where US indexes stood at the 4 p.m. ET close on Thursday:

"While daily gyrations and headlines questioning the market's grit can be sources of consternation, we remain optimistic on the medium-term outlook for U.S. stocks," said Tony DeSpirito, BlackRock's CIO of US fundamental equities. "The key components of an investment thesis ― earnings, fundamentals and valuations ― support a case for continued strength, even as longer-term return expectations should be tempered."

The former employer of Keith Gill, the investor whose bullishness on GameStop contributed to a trading frenzy in the meme stock earlier this year, is reportedly facing allegations that its subsidiary didn't properly supervise "Roaring Kitty" and his trading activity. Gill worked for MML Investors Services, a subsidiary of MassMutual, until his resignation in January.

A former cryptocurrency hedge fund manager who pleaded guilty to securities fraud after prosecutors said he ran a Ponzi scheme was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison, the US attorney's office for the Southern District of New York said. The US attorney said 24-year old Stefan Qin lied about returns on his $90 million fund and took money from its accounts to fund personal expenses, including a penthouse apartment in New York City.

West Texas Intermediate crude was little changed at $72.63 per barrel. Brent crude, oil's international benchmark, slid 0.32%, to $75.70 per barrel, at intraday lows.

Gold tumbled 2.21%, to $1,755.10 per ounce.

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