May 7, 2020 / 6:13 PM / 20 days ago

US STOCKS-Nasdaq tracks yearly gains on PayPal boost

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* PayPal jumps on strong payments recovery forecast

* Lyft surges on revenue beat, cost cuts

* Energy cos gain on oil demand hopes

* Indexes jump: Dow 1.56%, S&P 1.74%, Nasdaq 1.74% (Updates to early afternoon)

By C Nivedita and Medha Singh

May 7 (Reuters) - A jump for PayPal on Thursday put the Nasdaq on course to turn positive on the year, with Wall Street also boosted by hopes of a faster economic recovery following a surprise rise in Chinese exports.

Payments processor PayPal surged 12.8% to a record high after it forecast a strong rebound in payments volumes in the second quarter as social distancing drives more people to shop online.

Gains for Apple Inc, Alphabet Inc and Microsoft Corp also lifted the Nasdaq to levels last seen in early March.

At 1:09 p.m. ET, the tech-heavy index was up 1.74% and set for gains of about 0.4% since the start of the year, powered by historic stimulus and, more recently, by hard-hit states reopening businesses following COVID-19 lockdowns.

Lyft Inc surged 27.7% as the ride-hailing company posted higher-than-expected revenue and vowed to further cut costs to be profitable. Rival Uber Technologies, which is expected to report results after markets close, gained 12.3%.

"With expectations just set so low, any positive news is really being welcomed, and the continuing negative news, to some extent, is being pushed to the side," said Rick Meckler a partner at Cherry Lane Investments in New Vernon, New Jersey.

Wall Street's fear gauge eased to levels it was trading at in early March, before volatility leapt to 12-year highs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the S&P 500 is still about 15% below its Feb. record high.

Latest data showed 3.17 million Americans applied for state unemployment benefits last week, but the number marked the fifth straight weekly decline in claims. The Labor Department's monthly nonfarm payroll report is due on Friday.

"The bad news is now looking in the rear-view mirror," said Thomas Hayes, managing member at Great Hill Capital Llc in New York.

"Markets are sniffing out that people are getting back to work, demand is going to recover, and all this extra stimulus is going to lead to growth levels maybe much higher-than-expected."

Energy stocks rose 3.3%, the most among the 11 major sectors, on optimism around future oil demand after China's overseas shipments in April rose for the first time this year as factories raced to make up for lost sales.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 369.59 points, or 1.56%, at 24,034.23, the S&P 500 was up 49.57 points, or 1.74%, at 2,897.99.

Shares of Fortinet Inc jumped 20.4% after the cybersecurity firm forecast current-quarter revenue largely above expectations.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 4.57-to-1 ratio on the NYSE by a 3.11-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded eight new 52-week highs and no new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 51 new highs and six new lows. (Reporting by C Nivedita and Medha Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Sagarika Jaisinghani, Bernard Orr and Arun Koyyur)

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