Wall Street’s benchmark, the S&P 500 ended modestly higher in a choppy session on Thursday, with gains in tech shares countering losses in cyclical sectors, as investors took the pulse of the economic rebound and gauged when the Federal Reserve might temper its monetary stimulus.
Tech also supported the Nasdaq, while economically sensitive sectors such as energy and materials were particularly weak.
Data showed that the number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell to a 17-month low last week, pointing to another month of robust job growth.
Stocks on wall street had sold off sharply a day earlier after minutes from the Fed’s July meeting showed officials felt it was possible that a key benchmark for decreasing support “could be reached this year.”
“It’s very much investors grappling with the growth outlook for the global economy, and how aggressive the Fed will taper when they get around to it,” said Paul Nolte, portfolio manager at Kingsview Investment Management in Chicago.
Wall Street Index Overview
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 66.57 points, or 0.19%, to 34,894.12, the S&P 500 gained 5.53 points, or 0.13%, to 4,405.8 and the Nasdaq Composite added 15.87 points, or 0.11%, to 14,541.79.
After opening sharply lower on Wall street, the benchmark S&P 500 erased its declines while swinging between gains and losses during the session.
“Money on the sidelines … was deployed into the market on weakness, and that has been a tale of the markets for the past six to 12 months,” said Jeff Mortimer, director of investment strategy at BNY Mellon Wealth Management.
Technology shined among S&P 500 sectors, rising 1%, helped by a 4% gain for shares of Nvidia Corp. The chip company forecast third-quarter revenue above Wall Street expectations late on Wednesday as it benefits from a boom in demand.
Consumer staples and real estate – generally considered defensive sectors – both rose about 0.9%.
Financials and industrials were among the sectors in the red, falling about 0.8% each.
In company news, shares of U.S. department store chains Macy’s Inc and Kohl’s Corp rose 19.6% and 7.3%, respectively, following increased annual sales forecasts.
A rebound in the U.S. economy including a stellar second-quarter corporate earnings season on top of accommodative monetary policy has underpinned positive sentiment for equities, with the S&P 500 up about 100% since its March 2020 pandemic low.
But with the market in a period that has seasonally been weak historically, investors have said stocks may be due for a significant drop, with the S&P 500 yet to experience a 5% pullback this year.
Wall Street’s focus is shifting to the Fed’s annual research conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, next week for any read about the central bank’s next steps.
“The key economic variable continues to be inflation,” Mortimer said. “Is it temporary, is it permanent, what number will the Fed tolerate in order to achieve its full employment mandate?”
Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 2.59-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 2.43-to-1 ratio favoured decliners.
The S&P 500 posted 28 new 52-week highs and 3 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 35 new highs and 274 new lows.
About 10.3 billion shares changed hands in U.S. exchanges, above the 9.3 billion daily average over the last 20 sessions.