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A trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, December 1, 2008. U.S stocks stayed near session lows on Monday after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said that the U.S. economy remained under considerable stress.
Brendan McDermid/Reuters

US stocks were largely flat Thursday morning as traders awaited Fed chair Jerome Powell's speech at the Jackson Hole Symposium and digested higher than expected jobless claims. The S&P 500 slipped tk% after hitting its 51st record high for 2021 the previous day.

The benchmark index is currently on pace for 78 new highs in 2021, which would be an all-time record year, according to LPL Financial Chief Market Strategist Ryan Detrick.

Investors are laser focused this week on Powell's speech at the virtual symposium of central bankers on Friday. The head of the US central bank's words will be scrutinized for any clues about the Fed's outlook on tapering its asset purchases.

Here's where US indexes stood at the 9:30 a.m. ET open on Thursday:

On the economic data front, weekly jobless claims reached an unadjusted 353,000 last week, the Labor Department announced Thursday morning. That compares to a median estimate of 350,000 claims from economists surveyed by Bloomberg. It was the first increase in claims in 5 weeks.

Not all on Wall Street expect the Fed meeting to make waves within markets. Paolo Zanghieri, senior economist of Generali Investments said that Powell's speech will be short on tapering details amid persistent risk from rising COVID-19 cases.

"If the Delta variant does not prove too harmful, we expect a clear warning on imminent tapering in September, an announcement in November, followed by an implementation in December," he said. "Powell is likely to take the opportunity for further clarifying some key aspects of the Fed policy, especially stressing the distinction between asset purchase tapering and rate hikes."

Bitcoin traded around $47,000 after crossing it's highest point since Mid-May earlier this week.

West Texas Intermediate crude fell 0.99% to $67.68 per barrel. Brent crude, oil's international benchmark, slid 0.76%, to $71.70 per barrel.

Gold slipped 0.32% to $1,785 per ounce.

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