The S&P 500 index looked on track to add to its record run on Thursday, with technology shares set to help in that campaign, while the Dow looked flat, ahead of expected comments from Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell.
A weekly report on those seeking unemployment benefits in the U.S. showed an unexpected rise, perhaps reinforcing the Fed’s concern about the labor market’s recovery from COVID.
How are stock benchmarks faring?
Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average
were down 23 points at 33,305, a slide of less than 0.1%.
S&P 500 futures
were gaining 10.60 points to reach 4,080.50, a gain of 0.3%.
advanced 107 points, or 0.8%, at 13,711.75.
On Wednesday, the S&P 500
added 6.01 points, or 0.2%, enough to finish at a record 4,079.95, its 18th of the year. The Dow
rose 16.02 points, or 0.1%, to close at 33,446.26, its second-highest finish ever, the Nasdaq Composite Index
shed 9.54 points, or 0.1%, ending at 13,688.84, while booking a second day in a row of losses. The small-cap oriented Russell 2000 index
slumped 1.6% to close at 2,223.05.
What’s driving the market?
A day after minutes from the Federal Reserve’s March policy meeting were released, the market may get more clarity from the central bank on the path forward.
Fed Chairman Powell is set to discuss the global economy at a webcast conference hosted by the International Monetary Fund at 12 p.m. Eastern Time Thursday.
On Wednesday, minutes from Fed policy makers’ March 16-17 meeting indicated concerns about the recovery in the job market which is still rebounding from the COVID pandemic.
U.S. weekly jobless benefit claims, may reinforce that notion, showing a rise of 16,000 to 744,000, above expectations for 694,000 from economists surveyed by Dow Jones. Claims were raised to 728,000 in the prior week from the prior estimate of 719,000.
“Bottom line, with as of 7.4mm job openings thru February, and assume they are more since then, this level of claims is somewhat confounding but still points to the speculation as to what impact generous unemployment benefits are doing to people’s incentive to get a job,” wrote Peter Boockvar, chief investment officer at Bleakley Advisory Group.
However, continuing claims dropped 16,000 to 3.73 million, marking the lowest level for that measure of employment since March 21, 2020.
The Fed in its minutes also communicated that it will be “some time” before any tapering of the central bank’s monthly asset-purchase program, or before benchmark interest rates are lifted from current levels near 0%.
That sentiment may be enough to keep markets aloft—at least for the moment.
“The minutes from the [Federal Open Market Committee] March meeting didn’t reveal anything new, but a reiteration of the Fed’s supportive stance appears to have been a tonic for the markets,” wrote Sophie Griffiths, market analyst at Oanda, in a daily note.
Fed officials have been mostly playing down fears of rising inflation, which have gripped the market and helped to spur a climb in benchmark bond yields.
Rising bonds yields have hurt the appetite for speculative stocks, including those in the technology and related sectors that have prospered amid pandemic lockdown measures.
“Policymakers at the Federal Reserve believe any rise in inflation will be temporary and consider it necessary to continue supporting the economy until recovery is on firmer ground,” the analyst said.
The 10-year Treasury note yield
was steady on Thursday at around 1.65%. Bond prices rise as yields fall.
Which companies are in focus?
- Canopy Growth Corp. CGC said Thursday that it will acquire Toronto-based Supreme Cannabis Co. Inc. SPRWF, in a stock and cash deal valued at about C$435 million ($345.6 million).
- Telsa Inc. TSLA has expressed frustration with red tape it says is hampering the construction of a new gigafactory outside the German capital Berlin, and has now offered its own reform proposals to the German authorities, AFP reported.
- Shares of Valero Energy Corp. VLO fell in premarket trading Thursday, after the maker of transportation fuels and petrochemical products provided a downbeat outlook for the first quarter, citing higher-than-expected costs resulting from the impact of Winter Storm Uri on its refining and ethanol business.
- Constellation Brands Inc. STZ posted stronger-than-expected earnings for its fiscal fourth quarter Thursday although profit fell from the year-earlier period.
- Cloud company Box Inc. BOX said Thursday it has reached an agreement with private-equity firm KKR KKR in which KKR funds will lead a $500 million investment in the company in the form of convertible preferred stock.
- Shares of GameStop Corp. GME rallied in premarket trading Thursday, putting them on track to snap a three-day losing streak, after the videogame and consumer electronics retailer said it plans to name Ryan Cohen as chairman of the board. Kathy Vrabeck is currently board chair.
- Shares of Conagra Brands Inc. CAG edged up in premarket trading Thursday, after the food company, which brands include Birds Eye, Healthy Choice, Slim Jim and Reddi-wip, reported fiscal third-quarter profit and sales that rose above expectations.