U.S. Stocks Remain Little Changed In Afternoon Trading

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After showing a lack of direction early in the session, stocks continue to turn in a lackluster performance in afternoon trading on Thursday. The major averages have spent the day bouncing back and forth across the unchanged line after ending the previous session firmly positive.

Currently, the major averages are narrowly mixed. While the Nasdaq is down 13.08 points or 0.1 percent at 16,386.44, the S&P 500 is up 4.82 points or 0.1 percent at 5,253.31 and the Dow is up 27.29 points or 0.1 percent at 39,787.37.

The choppy trading on Wall Street comes as traders seem reluctant to make significant moves ahead of the release of a Commerce Department report on personal income and spending on Friday that readings on inflation said to be preferred by the Federal Reserve.

While the inflation data could impact the outlook for interest rates, traders will have to wait until next Monday to react to the report due to the markets being closed for Good Friday.

Economists expect the annual rate of consumer price growth to inch up to 2.5 percent in February from 2.4 percent in January, while the annual rate of core consumer price growth is expected to come in unchanged at 2.8 percent.

The holiday will also see Fed Chair Jerome Powell participate in a moderated discussion before the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco Macroeconomics and Monetary Policy Conference.

With the focus on tomorrow’s inflation data, traders have largely shrugged off a slew of U.S. economic data released this morning.

The Labor Department released a report report showing first-time claims for U.S. unemployment benefits unexpectedly edged slightly lower in the week ended March 23rd.

The report said initial jobless claims dipped to 210,000, a decrease of 2,000 from the previous week’s revised level of 212,000.

Economists had expected jobless claims to rise to 215,000 from the 210,000 originally reported for the previous week.

A separate report released by the Commerce Department showed the U.S. economy unexpectedly grew by more than previously estimated in the fourth quarter of 2023.

Revised data showed real gross domestic product surged by 3.4 percent in the fourth quarter compared to the previously reported 3.2 percent jump. Economists had expected the pace of GDP growth to be unrevised.

The National Association of Realtors also released a report showing a notable rebound by pending home sales in the month of February.

NAR said its pending home sales index shot up by 1.6 percent to 75.6 in February after plunging by 4.7 percent to a revised reading of 74.4 in January.

Economists had expected pending home sales to jump by 1.5 percent compared to the 4.9 percent nosedive originally reported for the previous month.

Separately, the University of Michigan released revised data showing an unexpected improvement in U.S. consumer sentiment in the month of March.

The report said the consumer sentiment index for March was upwardly revised to 79.4 from the preliminary reading of 76.5. Economists had expected the reading to be unrevised.

With the unexpected upward revision, the consumer sentiment index for March is now above the final February reading of 76.9.

Reflecting the lackluster performance by the broader markets, most of the major sectors are showing only modest moves on the day.

Gold stocks are extending the rally seen in the previous session, however, with the NYSE Arca Gold Bugs Index surging by 3.0 percent to a three-month intraday high.

The continued strength among gold stocks comes as the price of gold for June delivery is jumping $27.20 to $2,239.70 an ounce.

Energy, housing and transportation stocks are also seeing notable strength on the day, although buying interest has remained relatively subdued.

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region turned in another mixed performance on Wednesday. Japan’s Nikkei 225 Index tumbled by 1.5 percent, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index advanced by 0.9 percent and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index jumped by 1.0 percent.

Meanwhile, the major European markets all moved modestly higher on the day. While the U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index rose by 0.3 percent, the German DAX Index inched up by 0.1 percent and the French CAC 40 Index closed just above the unchanged line.

In the bond market, treasuries have shown a lack of direction over the course of the session. Currently, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note, which moves opposite of its price, is up by 1 basis point at 4.206 percent.





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