The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq fell on Thursday, weighed down by Amazon, Apple and other top-shelf technology stocks, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average edged up to a seventh straight record high.
Stocks lost a little ground late in the session after the Wall Street Journal reported that Special counsel Robert Mueller has impaneled a grand jury in Washington to investigate allegations of Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections.
The S&P 500 information technology index, which has led other sectors in 2017, fell 0.35 percent. Apple lost 1.0 percent after hitting a record high the day before. It and Amazon, down 0.90 percent, weighed more than any other stocks on the S&P 500.
Tesla rose 6.50 percent after reporting quarterly results that exceeded Street expectations.
The consensus seems to be that the companies making up the S&P 500 index will chalk up earnings growth of 11.8 percent and they project earnings up 9.2 percent for the September quarter, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
The S&P 500 has risen 11 percent in 2017 and is trading at 18 times expected earnings, pricey compared to its 10-year average of 14, according to Thomson Reuters Datastream.
Wall Street has shrugged off a recent failure by a Republican-controlled Congress to overhaul healthcare as well as doubts about how easily President Donald Trump will be able to fulfill promises to cut taxes and increase infrastructure spending.
Investors are watching economic data for clues on the health of the economy ahead of the keenly awaited monthly payrolls data on Friday.
Labor Department data on Thursday showed weekly jobless claims fell last week, pointing to a tightening labor market, while a report from the Institute for Supply Management showed its non-manufacturing index fell to 53.9 last month from 57.4 in June.
Yum Brands fell 2.30 percent, while Dish Network lost 4.52 percent after releasing their earnings reports.
Avon Products fell 10.71 percent after the cosmetics seller posted an unexpected quarterly loss and said its CEO will step down.
Approximately 6.6 billion shares changed hands on the major domestic equity exchanges, a number that was above the 6.1 billion share average over the past 20 trading sessions.
Jobless Insurance Claims Fall
The number of Americans filing for unemployment insurance fell last week, pointing to a tightening labor market that likely keeps the Federal Reserve on course to announce plans next month to start reducing its massive bond portfolio.
Labor market strength was also underscored by another report on Thursday showing U.S.-based employers in July announced the fewest job cuts in eight months. But a slowdown in services sector activity last month put a wrinkle on the economy’s brightening prospects.
According to a report released Thursday morning by the Labor Department, initial claims for state unemployment benefits decreased 5,000 to a seasonally adjusted 240,000 for the week ended July29.
Claims have now been below 300,000, a threshold associated with a healthy labor market, for 126 straight weeks. That is the longest such stretch since 1970, when the labor market was smaller. The labor market is near full employment, with the jobless rate at 4.4 percent.
The four-week moving average of claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, fell 2,500 to 241,750 last week, the lowest level since May.
It is likely that tightness in the labor market will encourage the Fed to announce a plan to start offloading its $4.2 trillion portfolio of Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities in September. However, it is likely the Fed will hold off on raising interest rates until December because of low inflation. The Fed has raised rates twice this year.
The claims data has no bearing on July’s employment report, which is scheduled to be released on Friday, as it falls outside the survey period.
According to a Reuters survey, nonfarm payrolls likely increased by 183,000 jobs last month after surging by 222,000 in June. The unemployment rate is seen falling one-tenth of a percentage point to 4.3 percent.
In a separate report on Thursday, global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas said U.S.-based employers announced 28,307 job cuts last month, down 9 percent from June and the fewest number since November 2016.
Retailers planned to cut 3,862 jobs in July. They were closely followed by the health care products and services sector where employers planned 3,634 layoffs.
“While retailers are cutting the most jobs this year, those companies are also announcing the most hiring,” said John Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas. “New retail jobs could be going to places like fulfillment and distribution centers.”
Retailers have accounted for 245,616 of the 556,493 new jobs that have been announced this year, according to Challenger tracking. Amazon plans to hire about 50,000 workers this month at its warehouses and sorting centers.
A third report from the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) showed its non-manufacturing index fell to a reading of 53.9 last month from 57.4 in June. A reading above 50 in the ISM index indicates an expansion in the services sector, which accounts for more than two-thirds of the economy.
Last month, a gauge of new orders received by services industries fell to 55.1 from 60.5 in June. A measure of services sector employment dropped 2.2 points to 53.6.
Nine industries reported increased employment and four said they had cut payrolls. Some companies said they “continued to refine workforce through efficiencies” and others reported “filling more open positions.”
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