The S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite eked out slight gains Thursday on the back of energy and consumer staples stocks, but the Dow closed lower for a second straight session, as investors digested a weekly report on the labor market in the U.S. and contended with signs of rising cases and hospitalizations of COVID-19 in several states.
How are benchmarks faring?
The Dow Jones Industrial Average /zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA -0.94% finished off 39.51 points, or 0.2%, lower at 26,080.10, as a decline in financials American Express /zigman2/quotes/203805826/composite AXP -1.38% and Goldman Sachs /zigman2/quotes/209237603/composite GS -1.87% pressured the blue-chip index lower. The benchmark finished well off its low of 25m848.53. Meanwhile, the S&P 500 index /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX +0.10% picked up 1.85 points, or less than 0.1%, to close at 3,115.34, after sinking to an intraday low at 3,093.51
The Nasdaq Composite Index /zigman2/quotes/210598365/realtime COMP +1.10% rose 32.52 points, or 0.3%, at 9,943.05.
On Wednesday, the Dow lost 170.37 points, or 0.7%, to end at 26,119.61. The S&P 500 fell 11.25 points, finishing at 3,113.49, or 0.4% lower. The Nasdaq Composite gained 14.66 points, or 0.2%, closing at 9,910.53.
What’s driving the market?
Markets are facing a fight between bullish and bearish investors as equities struggle to rally further lows seen late March which has made for muted trade over the past several sessions.
On Thursday, Investors digested a report on U.S. weekly jobless benefit claims showing 1.5 million new applications were made in the most recent week, pushing the total during the coronavirus pandemic above 48 million. The most recent reading was higher than the consensus forecast of 1.3 million new claims.
Economists have also been watching continuing claims, which should start to taper off after peaking in the middle of May, as states allow business activities to restart after nationwide lockdowns. There were 20.54 million such claims in the most recent week, down from 20.61 million.
In a separate report, the Philadelphia Fed said manufacturing activity in the region was much stronger than had been anticipated. Its June reading rose solidly to 27.5 from -43.1 in May.
Meanwhile, new U.S. cases and hospitalizations remain a source of anxiety for investors, with Texas, Arizona, Florida and Oklahoma reporting growing infections. A tally by Reuters showed 259 new cases over the previous day in Oklahoma, with President Donald Trump set to hold a campaign rally in Tulsa over the weekend. Florida reported more than 2,600 new cases and Arizona more than 1,800.
Still, various local governments continue to push ahead with reopening plans. New York City is expected to enter Phase 2 of its business restart efforts, which includes opening of retail shops, outdoor dining and hair salons.
“The behavior of the virus didn’t change just because we shut down the economy for what, six weeks?” said Donald Calcagni, chief investment officer with Mercer Advisors. “We have some states that just reported all-time highs in case counts,” he said.
“The jobless claims were higher than expected. I’m not sure if that’s a canary in the coal mine but I’m afraid it might be,” the CIO said.
In addition to the coronavirus, Calcagni thinks investors need to pay attention to the situation in China. If the virus is more serious than Beijing is letting on, he said in an interview, it has the potential to disrupt the global supply chain and dampen economic activity.