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Market Snapshot: U.S. stocks pause after another round of records as investors assess economic data

U.S. stocks struggled for direction Thursday as investors digested data showing an improvement in weekly jobless benefit claims but a pickup in wholesale inflation, after back-to-back record finishes for the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 index.

How are markets trading?

The Dow Jones Industrial Average
DJIA,
-0.25%

was off 1.37 points at 35,483.60.

The S&P 500
SPX,
-0.10%

was down 6.55 points, or 0.2%, at 4,441.15.

The Nasdaq Composite
COMP,
-0.08%

fell 51.95 points, or 0.4%, to 14,713.18.

On Wednesday, the Dow industrials closed up 220.30 points, or 0.6%, to finish at a record 35,484.97, after hitting an intraday, all-time high of 35,501.16. The S&P 500 index rose 0.3%, or 10.95 points, to close at a record 4,447.70, after establishing an intraday record at 4,449.44. The Nasdaq Composite Index closed down 22.95 points, or 0.2%, at 14,765.14.

What’s driving the market?

Markets saw little movement at the open Thursday after a round of economic data showed first-time claims for jobless benefit benefits came in at 375,000 last week, matching estimates and near a pandemic low. The producer-price index was up 7.8% year over year in July versus 7.3% in June, while the core PPI reading, which excludes food and energy, accelerated to 6.1% from 5.5%.

The push to records for the Dow and S&P 500 on Wednesday were fueled by data that showed consumer prices easing somewhat, with the index rising 5.4% from a year ago in July. That number was in line with June and lower than some predictions.

But some investors might be wondering how high stocks can keep going, as they have been at or near new highs for a while, despite the rapid rise of new coronavirus cases across the U.S. and elsewhere, said Pierre Veyret, technical analyst at ActivTrades, in a note to clients.

“While some traders continue to ride this bullish wave, others have already started to hedge their portfolio against any potential decline, which explains the current rotation from growth stocks (tech shares) to cyclical values,” he said.

The International Energy Agency on Thursday downgraded its 2021 demand forecasts, blaming the delta coronavirus variant as a curb on oil demand. The IEA upgraded its 2022 forecast, however, saying demand should return to pre-pandemic levels midway through next year. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC, left its outlook for 2021 and 2022 demand growth unchanged, while raising its forecast for non-OPEC supply.

Investors will be watching for more news on COVID-19 vaccines, amid a report the Food and Drug Administration may authorize a third dose of Pfizer
PFE,
+1.05%

-BioNTech
BNTX,
+4.23%

and Moderna
MRNA,
+2.23%

shots for those with weakened immune systems. The emergency-use clearances could be announced as soon as Thursday, the New York Times reported late Wednesday.

Which companies are in focus?

EBay Inc. shares
EBAY,
-1.69%

rose 0.7% after the online auctioneer’s earnings beat guidance, though there were signs economic reopenings have hurt growth late Wednesday.

NIO Inc. shares
NIO,
-3.59%

fell 2.4%. The U.S.-listed China electric-auto maker reported a narrower-than-forecast quarterly loss late Wednesday.

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. shares
BABA,
-2.07%

were down 2.5% ahead of the Chinese multinational conglomerate’s earnings report.

Shares of Lordstown Motors Corp.
RIDE,
+4.12%

jumped 11% after the electric-vehicle maker reported another quarterly loss late Wednesday but said it is ready to start “limited production” of its all-electric pickup truck in September, with first deliveries early next year.

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