After an initial move to the downside, stocks have shown a lack of direction over the course of morning trading on Thursday. The major averages climbed off their early lows but have been bouncing back and forth across the unchanged line since then.
Currently, the major averages are posting modest losses. The Dow is down 60.50 points or 0.2 percent at 26,702.63, the Nasdaq is down 25.30 points or 0.2 percent at 10,607.69 and the S&P 500 is down 6.48 points or 0.2 percent at 3,230.44.
The choppy trading on Wall Street comes following the release of a mixed batch of U.S. economic data, which has added to recent uncertainty about the economic outlook.
Before the start of trading, the Labor Department released a report showing an unexpected uptick in first-time claims for U.S. unemployment benefits in the week ended September 19th.
The report said initial jobless claims inched up to 870,000, an increase of 4,000 from the previous week’s revised level of 866,000.
The modest increase surprised economists, who had expected jobless claims to drop to 843,000 from the 860,000 originally reported for the previous week.
Meanwhile, the Commerce Department released a separate report unexpectedly showing another significant increase in new home sales in the U.S. in the month of August.
The Commerce Department said new home sales jumped by 4.8 percent to an annual rate of 1.011 million in August after skyrocketing by 14.7 percent to an upwardly revised rate of 965,000 in July.
Economists had expected new home sales to pull back by 1.2 percent to a rate of 890,000 from the 901,000 originally reported for the previous month.
With the unexpected increase, new home sales surged up to their highest level since reaching 1.016 million in September of 2006.
Uncertainty about the global economic outlook has recently resurfaced as Europe grapples with a second wave of coronavirus infections.
Recent data has suggested the economic recovery in the U.S. may be plateauing, leading to calls by officials such as Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell for more fiscal stimulus.
However, with the elections looming, lawmakers are expected to continue to have difficulty reaching an agreement on a new coronavirus relief bill.
Airline stocks have moved sharply lower on the day, dragging the NYSE Arca Airline Index down by 3 percent. The index hit its lowest intraday level in well over a month earlier in the session.
Oil service, biotechnology and computer hardware stocks have also shown notable moves to the downside, contributing to the modest weakness being shown by the broader markets.
On the other hand, considerable strength has also emerged among semiconductor stocks, resulting in a 1.3 percent gain by the Philadelphia Semiconductor Index.
Housing stocks have also moved higher following the new home sales data, with the Philadelphia Housing Sector Index climbing by 1.2 percent.
In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region moved mostly lower during trading on Thursday. Japan’s Nikkei 225 Index slumped by 1.1 percent, while China’s Shanghai Composite Index plunged by 1.7 percent.
The major European markets have also moved to the downside on the day. While the U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index has tumbled by 1.2 percent, the French CAC 40 Index is down by 0.7 percent and the German DAX Index is down by 0.3 percent.
In the bond market, treasuries are turning in a lackluster performance following the mixed economic data. 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 0.668 percent.
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