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Wall Street ends higher as Nvidia sparks rush for AI stocks

A trader work on the floor of the NYSE in New York

By Noel Randewich and Shreyashi Sanyal

(Reuters) - Wall Street ended sharply higher on Thursday after a blowout forecast from Nvidia sent the chipmaker's stock soaring and fueled a rally in AI-related companies, while investors watched for signs of progress in U.S. debt ceiling talks.

Nvidia Corp soared 24% to a record high close after the world's most valuable chipmaker forecast quarterly revenue 50% higher than estimates and said it was ramping up supply to meet demand for its artificial-intelligence (AI) chips.

Investors exchanged almost $60 billion worth of Nvidia's shares, accounting for a fifth of all trading in S&P 500 stocks during the session, according to Refintiv data.

"Nvidia has officially replaced FANG as the centerpiece of this market," said Jake Dollarhide, chief executive officer of Longbow Asset Management in Tulsa, Oklahoma. "Investors are obsessed with AI, and Nvidia is the perfect AI story."

Heavyweight AI players Microsoft Corp and Alphabet Inc rose 3.9% and 2.1%, respectively. Advanced Micro Devices Inc jumped about 11%, Micron Technology Inc added 4.6% and Broadcom Inc climbed more than 7%.

The Philadelphia SE Semiconductor index soared 6.8% to its highest level in more than a year in its biggest daily percentage rise since November.

Intel Corp, which investors view as lagging in the AI race, dropped 5.5%, weighing on the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

Wall Street has been jittery in recent days about dragging negotiations in Washington to raise the nation's $31.4 trillion debt ceiling and avoid a default.

U.S. President Joe Biden and Republican lawmaker Kevin McCarthy on Thursday were edging close to a deal, with the parties just $70 billion apart on discretionary spending, Reuters reported, citing a source familiar with the talks.

Reflecting market uncertainty, two-year yields hit their highest since March after ratings agencies Fitch and DBRS Morningstar put the United States on a credit watch for a possible downgrade. [US/]

Meanwhile, data showed the number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits rose only moderately last week, while a Commerce Department report confirmed economic growth slowed in the first quarter.

The S&P 500 climbed 0.88% to end the session at 4,151.28 points.

The Nasdaq surged 1.71% to 12,698.09 points, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average declined 0.11% to 32,764.65 points.

Volume on U.S. exchanges was relatively heavy, with 10.8 billion shares traded, compared to an average of 10.5 billion shares over the previous 20 sessions.

The S&P 500 is now up about 8% so far in 2023 and the Nasdaq has recovered over 30% from its losses last year.

Ralph Lauren Corp rallied 5.3% after the luxury retailer beat profit estimates.

Electronics retailer Best Buy Co Inc rose 3.1% following upbeat quarterly earnings, while discount store chain Dollar Tree Inc tumbled after cutting its annual profit outlook.

Declining stocks outnumbered rising ones within the S&P 500 by a 1.4-to-one ratio.

The S&P 500 posted 11 new highs and 31 new lows; the Nasdaq recorded 56 new highs and 163 new lows.

(Reporting by Shreyashi Sanyal and Shristi Achar A in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur, Vinay Dwivedi and David Gregorio)