Major Averages Finish Choppy Trading Session Narrowly Mixed

Following the sell-off seen during trading on Tuesday, stocks showed a lack of direction over the course of the trading session on Wednesday. The major averages spent the day bouncing back and forth across the unchanged before closing narrowly mixed.

While the Dow rose 82.32 points or 0.3 percent to 31,029.31, the Nasdaq and S&P 500 ended the day slightly lower. The Nasdaq edged down 3.65 points or less than a tenth of a percent to 11,177.89, and the S&P 500 dipped 2.72 points or 0.1 percent to 3,818.83.

The choppy trading on Wall Street came as uncertainty about the near-term outlook for the markets kept some traders on the sidelines following recent volatility.

The sharp pullback on Tuesday came on the heels of the strong upward move seen last week, which in turn reflected a rebound from the sell-off seen earlier this month.

Traders also kept an eye on remarks by Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell, who participated in a panel discussion at the European Central Bank Forum on Central Banking alongside ECB President Christine Lagarde and Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey.

Powell reiterated his previously shared belief that the U.S. economy is “well positioned to withstand tighter monetary policy” but cautioned there’s no guarantee the Fed can engineer a “soft landing.”

“We think that there are pathways for us to achieve the path back to 2 percent inflation while still retaining a strong labor market. We believe we can do that,” Powell said. “It’s obviously something that’s going to be quite challenging.”

The Fed chief once again declared his commitment to fighting inflation, arguing that failing to restore price stability poses a bigger risk to the economy than tightening monetary policy too aggressively.

In U.S. economic news, revised data released by the Commerce Department showed U.S. economic activity shrank by slightly more than previously estimated in the first quarter of 2022.

The report showed the decrease in real gross domestic product in the first quarter was revised to 1.6 percent from the previously reported 1.5 percent. Economists had expected the drop in GDP to be unrevised.

The slightly bigger than previously estimated decline in GDP in the first quarter came on the heels of the 6.9 percent spike in GDP in the fourth quarter of 2021.

Sector News

Despite the lackluster performance by the broader markets, oil stocks showed a substantial move to the downside, resulting in a 3.7 percent nosedive by the NYSE Arca Oil Index.

The sell-off by oil stocks came amid a sharp drop by the price of crude oil, with crude for August delivery tumbling $1.98 to $109.78 a barrel.

Significant weakness was also visible among semiconductor stocks, as reflected by the 2.2 percent slump by the Philadelphia Semiconductor Index.

Natural gas, tobacco and computer hardware stocks also saw considerable weakness on the day, while pharmaceutical and healthcare stocks moved to the upside.

Other Markets

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region moved mostly lower during trading on Wednesday. Japan’s Nikkei 225 Index slid by 0.9 percent, while China’s Shanghai Composite Index tumbled by 1.4 percent.

The major European markets also moved to the downside on the day. While the U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index edged down by 0.2 percent, the French CAC 40 Index slumped by 0.9 percent and the German DAX Index plunged by 1.7 percent.

In the bond market, treasuries moved notably higher after ending the previous session little changed. Subsequently, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note, which moves opposite of its price, dove 11.3 basis points to 3.093 percent.

Looking Ahead

A report on personal income and spending is likely to be in the spotlight on Thursday, as it includes a reading on inflation said to be preferred by the Fed. Reports on weekly jobless claims and Chicago-area business activity may also attract attention.

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