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S&P, Nasdaq reverse early declines to edge higher; monthly jobs data eyed

2023-04-06T16:32:19Z

Traders work on the trading floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, U.S., March 31, 2023. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq reversed early declines on the last day of a holiday-shortened week, with risk-wary investors looking forward to monthly jobs data for a clearer picture of the economy.

Alphabet Inc (GOOGL.O) gained 2.4% on Thursday following a report that Google plans to add conversational artificial intelligence features to its search engine.

Other major technology and growth stocks such as Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O), Apple Inc (AAPL.O) and Meta Platforms Inc (META.O) also reversed early losses and gained between 0.5% and 0.8%, boosting the Nasdaq (.IXIC).

However, both the S&P 500 (.SPX) and the Nasdaq are headed for weekly declines for the first time in four weeks.

Adding to a slew of data signaling a weak labor market, initial jobless claims fell to a seasonally adjusted 228,000 for the week ended April 1, versus expectations of 200,000 claims.

The Labor Department’s data from the prior week was revised to show 48,000 more applications were received.

Focus now shifts to the more comprehensive report on non-farm payrolls, which are expected to have increased by 239,000 in March, down from the 311,000 jobs added in the prior month.

The report is due on Friday, when the U.S. stock market will be closed for the Good Friday holiday.

Recent reports, including weak data on private payrolls and job openings earlier this week, have suggested slowing labor demand and raised hopes of a pause in the Federal Reserve’s market-punishing rate hikes.

However, unlike in the last few months when evidence of a cooling economy was cheered by investors on hopes it would allow for a less hawkish Fed, softer data has added to fears of a recession and pressured equities in recent days.

“The reality of what a recessionary period is like, the impact of rate hikes and the ripple effects we don’t know yet (are weighing) on risk assets” said David Keller, chief market strategist at StockCharts.com.

“The Fed’s steps appear to be working in terms of slowing down the economy, but the question is how long do they have to keep doing that?”

Fed fund futures are indicating a 52.2% chance of the U.S. central bank pausing rate hikes in May, according to CME Group’s Fedwatch tool.

Big banks including JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N) and Citigroup (C.N) will be among companies kicking off the quarterly reporting season next week, with investors eager for updates on the health of the sector after a recent banking crisis.

At 11:56 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (.DJI) was down 52.07 points, or 0.16%, at 33,430.65, the S&P 500 (.SPX) was up 2.83 points, or 0.07%, at 4,093.21, and the Nasdaq Composite (.IXIC) was up 40.02 points, or 0.33%, at 12,036.88.

Among major stock moves, AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc (AMC.N) jumped 18.3% after a U.S. court denied the theater operator’s request to lift a status quo order necessary for its stock conversion plan.

Levi Strauss & Co (LEVI.N) slid 15.1% after the apparel maker posted a fall in quarterly profit.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers for a 1.07-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and a 1.20-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 5 new 52-week highs and no new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 31 new highs and 137 new lows.

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