By Mark DeCambre and William Watts
Stocks ended modestly lower Thursday, giving up early gains attributed partly to indications President Joe Biden will expand COVID-19 vaccine mandates for federal workers.
Separately, investors were weighing weekly data on claims for jobless benefit insurance and parsing a decision by the European Central Bank to slow asset purchases, which could help to inform the Federal Reserve’s plans to scale back on COVID-era policies.
How did stocks trade?
The Dow Jones Industrial Average /zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA +0.68% fell 151.69 points, or 0.4%, to end at 34,879.38
The S&P 500 index /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX +1.32% declined 20.79 points, or 0.5%, closing at 4,493.28.
The Nasdaq Composite Index /zigman2/quotes/210598365/realtime COMP +1.88% finished at 15,248.25, a loss of 38.38 points, or 0.3%.
The Dow and the S&P 500 have fallen for four straight days, the longest losing streak for both indexes since June 18, when the Dow ended a five-day stretch of losses and the S&P finished a four-day decline, according to Dow Jones Market Data.
What drove markets
Equity markets got a modest lift after the White House signaled Biden would seek a fresh round of additional vaccine mandates for federal workers and push for those measures to be extended to employees of government contractors.
“He’s going to build on our mandates requirements, making it so that workers in the federal government or others have to get vaccinated, we’ve seen that work,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki told MSNBC on Thursday.
But analysts also cautioned against reading too much into the market moves.
“The delta variant seems to be weighing on the minds of investors, so anything that curbs the spread could be perceived as a good thing,” said Mike Loewengart, managing director for investment strategy at ETrade.
“But the reality is that there’s a lot of factors at play when it comes to the market right now. So we’d caution being too quick to associate a direct cause and effect,” he said.
Meanwhile, several U.S. airlines on Thursday warned that third-quarter revenue would be weaker than previously forecast because the recent spike in COVID-19 cases saw consumers curtail travel plans. Airline stocks were mostly higher, however, with the U.S. Global Jets ETF /zigman2/quotes/207744796/composite JETS +0.10% rising 1.9%.
The report on the White House’s plans to improve vaccination measures follows updates of weekly jobless claims and a policy statement from the ECB.
Initial jobless claims fell by 35,000 to 310,000 in the week ended Sept. 4, the Labor Department said Thursday, marking the lowest level of claims since the pandemic struck in March 2020 and the biggest decline in claims since late June.