Stocks falter as investors weigh on jobs and inflation reports
Stocks hovered between small gains and losses on Thursday in calm trading, with weakness in chipmakers offsetting gains in healthcare companies and other sectors.
The S&P 500 Index was up 0.2% at 2:16 p.m. EST. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 49 points, or 0.1%, to 35,436 and the Nasdaq composite rose 0.2%.
Major tech stocks have helped counter the decline in chipmakers. Apple rose 1.8% and Adobe 1.2%, while Micron Technology fell 7.1% for the biggest decline in the S&P 500. Banks and health care stocks also rose, while industrial enterprises and various consumer-oriented enterprises have retreated.
Investors were working on a mixed picture of the economic data. The Labor Department said jobless claims fell to 375,000 from 387,000 the week before, another sign the labor market is recovering from the pandemic.
But at the same time, wholesale inflation jumped 1% higher than expected in July, matching the previous month’s rise, and dampening hopes that the upward trajectory in prices would start to slow. The producer price index rose a record 7.8% in the past 12 months. This is the largest year-on-year increase in a series dating back to 2010.
Much of the increase comes from services, such as air travel. Airline ticket prices are particularly high as the industry tries to recover from the travel crisis forced by the pandemic. However, other areas are starting to calm down, with food prices declining since December.
Investors have been particularly concerned about inflation for several months, despite assurances from the Federal Reserve and other officials that any inflation would be temporary and result from the economic recovery. Bond yields rose sharply last week amid these concerns, with the 10-year Treasury bill trading at 1.37% from 1.34% the previous day.
Hopes for a continued recovery in the labor market and concerns about inflation loom over the market as investors try to assess the pace of economic growth after a sharp increase earlier in the year. Analysts expect the economy to grow at a slower pace as the economy moves past the pandemic and sharp comparisons between 2021 and 2020.
“We don’t have a different economy than we had before the pandemic,” said Kimberly Woody, senior portfolio manager at Globalt. “Once you get rid of the comparisons and cross the fourth quarter anniversary, you’re back to the same economy you had before.”
The profit season is beginning to end. Companies that will release their results later Thursday include Dow member Walt Disney, travel company Airbnb and delivery giant DoorDash.