Following the significant rebound seen in the previous session, stocks have shown a lack of direction over the course of the trading day on Thursday. The major averages turned lower after an initial advance but have moved back to the upside since then.
Currently, the major averages are turning in a mixed performance. While the Nasdaq is down 77.10 points or 0.6 percent at 13,674.91, the Dow is up 114.50 points or 0.3 percent at 34,005.85 and the S&P 500 is up 6.77 points or 0.2 percent at 4,393.31.
The choppy trading on Wall Street comes as traders express some uncertainty about the near-term outlook for the markets following recent volatility.
Lingering concerns about the Russian invasion of Ukraine may also be keeping some traders on the sidelines as Russia continues to ramp up its attacks.
Traders may also be reluctant to make significant moves ahead of the release of the Labor Department’s closely watched monthly employment report on Friday.
Economists currently expect employment to jump by 400,000 jobs in February after surging by 467,000 jobs in January, while the unemployment rate is expected to edge down to 3.9 percent from 4.0 percent.
A day ahead of the release of the monthly jobs report, the Labor Department released a report showing a modest decrease in first-time claims for U.S. unemployment benefits in the week ended February 26th.
The report showed initial jobless claims dipped to 215,000, a decrease of 18,000 from the previous week’s revised level of 233,000.
Economists had expected jobless claims to edge down to 225,000 from the 232,000 originally reported for the previous week.
Meanwhile, a separate report from the Institute for Supply Management unexpectedly showed a continued slowdown in the pace of growth in U.S. service sector activity in the month of February.
The ISM said its services PMI fell to 56.5 in February from 59.9 in January. While a reading above 50 still indicates growth in the service sector, economists had expected the index to inch up to 61.0.
The services PMI decreased for the third straight month after reaching a record high of 68.4 in November of 2021.
Airline stocks continue to see substantial weakness in afternoon trading, with the NYSE Arca Airline Index tumbling by 2 percent. The index is currently on pace to end the session at its lowest closing level in three months.
Significant weakness also remains visible among tobacco stocks, as reflected by the 1.8 percent slump by the NYSE Arca Tobacco Index.
On the other hand, steel stocks have moved sharply higher over the course of the session, driving the NYSE Arca Steel Index up by 1.8 percent to its best intraday level in almost seven months.
Utilities stocks are also turning in a strong performance on the day, resulting in a 1.8 percent jump by the Dow Jones Utility Average. The average has reached a nearly two-month intraday high.
In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region moved mostly higher during trading on Thursday. Japan’s Nikkei 225 Index advanced by 0.7 percent, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index climbed by 0.6 percent.
Meanwhile, the major European markets showed substantial moves to the downside on the day. While the French CAC 40 Index slumped by 1.8 percent, the German DAX Index tumbled by 2.2 percent and the U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index plunged by 2.6 percent.
In the bond market, treasuries have shown a lack of direction over the course of the session. As a result, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note, which moves opposite of its price, is down by less than a basis point at 1.858 percent.
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