U.S. Stocks Turning In Another Lackluster Performance

Stocks have shown a lack of direction over the course of the trading day on Thursday, extending the lackluster performance seen in the two previous sessions. While the tech-heavy Nasdaq has spent the day hovering in positive territory, the Dow and the S&P 500 have been lingering near the unchanged line.

Currently, the major averages are turning in another mixed performance. The Dow is down 29.78 points or 0.1 percent at 31,408.02, while the Nasdaq is up 55.80 points or 0.4 percent at 14,028.34 and the S&P 500 is up 4.18 points or 0.1 percent at 3,914.06.

The chopping trading on Wall Street comes as buying interest seems somewhat subdued following recent strength but traders have also largely refrained from cashing in on the recent gains amid concerns about missing out on further upside.

Optimism about additional stimulus continues to support the markets along with largely upbeat earnings news, a slowdown in the rate of coronavirus infections and accelerated vaccine rollouts.

Nonetheless, traders have recently seemed somewhat reluctant to make substantial moves amid concerns the markets are becoming overbought.

Traders are also digesting a report from the Labor Department showing jobless claims decreased from an upwardly revised level but came in above estimates.

The Labor Department said initial jobless claims edged down to 793,000 in the week ended February 6th, a decrease of 19,000 from the previous week’s revised level of 812,000.

Economists had expected jobless claims to drop to 757,000 from the 779,000 originally reported for the previous week.

“Additional fiscal stimulus and broader vaccine diffusion will eventually allow the labor market to heal,” said Nancy Vanden Houten, Lead U.S. Economist at Oxford Economics.

She continued, “But as the January employment data showed, current conditions are still quite weak and declines in new jobless claims are likely to occur only gradually in the near term.”

Last Friday, the Labor Department released a separate report showing a modest rebound in U.S. employment in the month of January.

Traders have recently looked for the silver lining in most major economic data, seeing upbeat data as positive for the economy and seeing weaker than expected data as putting pressure on lawmakers to pass more stimulus.

Sector News

Most of the major sectors are showing only modest moves in mid-day trading, contributing to another lackluster performance by the broader markets.

Energy stocks have shown a significant move to the downside, however, with a modest pullback by the price of crude oil weighing on the sector.

Crude for March delivery is edging down $0.14 to $58.54 a barrel after closing high for eight straight sessions to reach its highest levels in over a year.

Reflecting the weakness in the energy sector the Philadelphia Oil Service Index is down by 2.6 percent, the NYSE Arca Oil Index is down by 1.7 percent and the NYSE Arca Natural Gas Index is down by 1.3 percent.

Notable weakness has also emerged among telecom stocks, as reflected by the 1.4 percent drop by the NYSE Arca North American Telecom Index.

On the other hand, semiconductor stocks have moved sharply higher over the course of the session, driving the Philadelphia Semiconductor Index up by 2.6 percent to a record intraday high.

Other Markets

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region turned in a mixed performance on Thursday, with several major markets closed for holidays. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index rose b0.5 percent, while Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index slipped by 0.1 percent.

Meanwhile, European stocks moved mostly higher on the day, with the pan-European STOXX 600 Index rising by 0.5 percent. While the German DAX Index also advanced by 0.8 percent, the U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index inched up by 0.1 percent and theFrench CAC 40 Index closed marginally lower.

In the bond market, treasuries have moved back to the downside after turning higher over the course of the previous session. Subsequently, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note, which moves opposite of its price, is up by 2.2 basis points at 1.155 percent.

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