Nasdaq, S&P 500 Firmly Negative In Afternoon Trading, Dow Little Changed

Stocks have moved mostly lower over the course of the trading day on Thursday, partly offsetting the rally seen in the previous session. The Nasdaq and the S&P 500 have slid firmly into negative territory, while the narrower Dow is little changed.

Currently, the Nasdaq is down 214.58 points or 1.6 percent at 13,429.01, and the S&P 500 is down 34.35 points or 0.8 percent at 4,412.24. Meanwhile, the Dow has been bouncing back and forth across the unchanged line and is down just 5.30 points or less than a tenth of a percent at 34,559.29.

The sharp pullback by the Nasdaq is partly due to considerable weakness among semiconductor stocks, with the Philadelphia Semiconductor Index slumping by 1.9 percent.

Computer hardware stocks have also moved to the downside on the day, dragging the NYSE Arca Computer Hardware Index down by 1.4 percent.

Western Digital (WDC) and Seagate Technology (STX) are posting notable losses after Susquehanna Financial downgraded its rating on both disk drive makers.

Outside of the tech sector, banking stocks are moving lower despite a rebound by treasury yields. The KBW Bank Index is down by 1.3 percent, on pace to end the session at its lowest closing level in almost nine months.

A steep drop by Wells Fargo (WFC) is weighing on the banking stocks, with the financial giant tumbling by 5.2 percent after reporting first quarter earnings that beat analyst estimates but weaker than expected revenues.

On the other hand, oil service stocks are moving higher along with the price of crude oil, driving the Philadelphia Oil Service Index up by 1.7 percent.

Traders are also reacting to some key U.S. economic data, including a report from the Commerce Department showing U.S. retail sales increased in March amid a spike in sales by gas stations.

The report showed retail sales rose by 0.5 percent in March after climbing by an upwardly revised 0.8 percent in February.

Economists had expected retail sales to increase by 0.6 percent compared to the 0.3 percent uptick originally reported for the previous month.

Excluding a pullback in sales by motor vehicle and parts dealers, retail sales jumped by 1.1 percent in March after rising by 0.6 percent in February. Ex-auto sales were expected to increase by 1.0 percent.

A separate report released by the Labor Department showed first-time claims for U.S. unemployment benefits increased by more than expected in the week ended April 9th.

The Labor Department said initial jobless claims rose to 185,000, an increase of 18,000 from the previous week’s revised level of 167,000.

Economists had expected initial jobless claims to edge up to 171,000 from the 166,000 originally reported for the previous week.

The Labor Department also released a report showing U.S. import prices surged by more than expected in the month of March, as prices for fuel imports continued to skyrocket.

Meanwhile, preliminary data released by the University of Michigan unexpectedly showed a substantial improvement in U.S. consumer sentiment in the month of April.

The report showed the consumer sentiment index spiked to 65.7 in April from 59.4 in March. The sharp increase surprised economists, who had expected the index to edge down to 59.0.

The consumer sentiment index rebounded from its lowest level since August 2011 amid an improvement in consumer expectations, with the expectations index surging to 64.1 in April from 54.3 in Mach.

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region moved mostly higher during trading on Thursday. Japan’s Nikkei 225 Index and China’s Shanghai Composite Index both jumped by 1.2 percent, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index climbed by 0.7 percent.

The major European markets also moved to the upside on the day. While the French CAC 40 Index advanced by 0.7 percent, the German DAX Index and the U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index rose by 0.6 percent and 0.5 percent, respectively.

In the bond market, treasuries have pulled back sharply after regaining ground over the two previous sessions. Subsequently, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note, which moves opposite of its price, is up by 12.7 basis points at 2.814 percent.

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