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* Weekly jobless claims higher than expected

* China ADRs track domestic blue-chip stocks higher

* Indexes up: Dow 0.12%, S&P 0.20%, Nasdaq 0.23%

Dec 28 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks rose marginally in light trading on the penultimate trading day of 2023, while the benchmark S&P 500 hovered around its all-time high on hopes of early interest rate cuts next year.

Eight of the eleven S&P sub indexes were trading in the green, with the healthcare sector leading the gains, advancing 0.5%.

The energy index slid 0.4% after oil prices fell around 1% on Thursday as concerns eased about shipping disruptions along the Red Sea route, even as tensions in the Middle East continue to fester.

Wall Street's three main indexes oscillated between modest gains and losses in the previous session on little market-moving news but finished higher for the day. They are on course for monthly, quarterly, and annual gains.

The S&P 500 has come within a whisker of breaching its January record close of 4796.56. If it crosses the mark, that would confirm the bellwether index has been in a bull market after it hit the bear market closing trough in October 2022.

Tech-heavy Nasdaq 100 is also on track to log its best year since 1999.

Optimism around early rate cuts with a possible soft landing for the American economy, and the artificial intelligence frenzy powered a rally in U.S. stocks in 2023, but fears of the economy slowing still persist as the full effect of higher borrowing costs filters through.

The Labor Department's report on Thursday indicated a weakening jobs market, with the initial claims for state unemployment benefits rising to 218,000 for the week ended Dec. 23, above expectations of 210,000 claims.

"It (the data) is showing some signs of slowing, which makes the case for more Fed accommodation sooner," said Thomas Hayes, chairman at Great Hill Capital LLC.

Money markets have priced in an about 87% probability that policymakers will reduce the Fed funds target rate by at least 25 basis points at the conclusion of their March policy meeting, according to CME's FedWatch tool.

At 9:40 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 46.81 points, or 0.12%, at 37,703.33, the S&P 500 was up 9.61 points, or 0.20%, at 4,791.19, and the Nasdaq Composite was up 34.68 points, or 0.23%, at 15,133.86.

Among individual stocks, U.S.-listed shares of Chinese companies rose as China's blue-chip stocks staged their biggest jump in five months on Thursday on strong foreign inflows.

Shares of Alibaba Holdings, PDD Holdings and JD.Com Inc advanced between 2.0% and 5.0%.

CytoSorbents dropped 35.6% as the company's device aimed at reducing bleeding during surgery did not meet the main goal of a study.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 1.07-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and by a 1.17-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 27 new 52-week highs and no new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 63 new highs and 17 new lows. (Reporting by Shubham Batra and Amruta Khandekar in Bengaluru; additional reporting by Shashwat Chauhan; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli)