The “Trump trade” made a comeback on Thursday on Wall Street but the S&P and Dow industrials ended flat as former FBI director James Comey said President Trump fired him to undermine an investigation into Russian meddling into the November election.
The Nasdaq Composite posted a record closing high helped by gains in Nvidia and Yahoo. S&P 500 futures opened slightly lower for the overnight session after exit polls showed there was a likelihood for a hung British Parliament.
Traders had been on tenterhooks ahead of Comey’s testimony to a Senate committee, his first since being fired by Trump on May 9. His prepared remarks had been made public Wednesday.
The market’s concern on the issue is whether the Trump administration can put the investigation behind it and revive momentum for their agenda of lower taxes and looser regulations. Bets on that agenda are partly behind a rally that has taken stock indexes to record highs.
The Trump ‘reflation trade’ that favored banks and sectors linked to infrastructure spending, among others, was back Thursday, with the S&P 500 financial sector up 1.1 percent.
The S&P 1500 construction and engineering index rose 1.4 percent and a gauge of construction materials’ stocks added 1.5 percent.
Also supporting infrastructure stocks, specifically steel companies, was an announcement from Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross that a national security review of our domestic steel industry will seek to protect the interests of both domestic steel producers and consumers.
The S&P 1500 steel sector index jumped 4.1 percent, the most since April 20.
In his statement, Comey said the president lied in describing their encounters and that he had no doubt that Russia interfered with the election, but was confident that no votes had been altered.
Some analysts were not so rosy about the effect of Comey’s testimony on the Trump agenda.
Utilities stocks fell the most on the S&P 500 as Treasury yields rose, tracking German Bund yields, after the European Central Bank upgraded its growth forecast for the euro zone even as it suggested its stimulus plan will remain in place as inflation remains subdued.
The S&P utilities sector was down 0.88 percent, the most since mid March.
Futures opened slightly lower after an exit poll unexpectedly showed Prime Minister Theresa May falling short of an overall parliamentary majority in Britain’s election.
Among specific stocks, Nordstrom (JWN.N) jumped 10.3 percent to $44.63 after the department store operator said that some members of the controlling Nordstrom family have formed a group to consider taking the company private.
Alibaba shares were up 13.3 percent to $142.34 after the company said it expects revenue growth of 45 to 49 percent in the 2018 fiscal year.
Yahoo, which has a 15.5 percent stake in Alibaba, gained 10.2 percent to $55.71.
Nvidia rose 7.3 percent to $159.94 after Citigroup reiterated its bullish view on the stock and said longer term it could hit $300.
Approximately 7.10 billion shares changed hands on the major domestic equity exchanges, as compared to the 6.62 billion share daily average over the last 20 sessions.
Jobless Claims Fall Again
The number of new claims for unemployment benefits fell last week, unwinding half of the prior period’s jump and suggesting the labor market was tightening despite a recent slowdown in job growth.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits declined 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 245,000 for the week ended June 3, the Labor Department said on Thursday. The report followed data on Tuesday showing job openings at a record high in April.
Claims surged by 20,000 in the prior week, with California, Tennessee, Kansas, and Missouri accounting for the bulk of the increase. Some of that increase was related to school summer breaks in which bus drivers and cafeteria workers were left temporarily unemployed.
Claims have now been below 300,000, a threshold associated with a healthy labor market, for 118 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 a 16-year low of 4.3 percent.
The four-week moving average of claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, increased 2,250 to 242,000 last week.
The dollar rose against the euro after the European Central Bank kept interest rates on hold but cut its forecasts for inflation and said policymakers had not discussed scaling back the central bank’s massive bond-buying program. Prices for U.S. Treasuries fell, while stocks on Wall Street were slightly higher.
A low level of layoffs and record high job openings suggest a deceleration in job growth in May was likely because companies could not find suitable workers. The economy created 138,000 jobs in May, well below the average monthly 181,000 jobs gained over the prior 12 months.
The Labor Department reported on Tuesday that job openings, a measure of labor demand, increased by 259,000 to a seasonally adjusted 6.0 million in April, the highest level since the government started tracking the series in 2000.
Labor market tightness will likely encourage the Fed to raise interest rates at its June 13-14 policy meeting.
Thursday’s claims number also showed the number of people still receiving benefits after an initial week of aid fell 2,000 to 1.92 million in the week ended May 27. The so-called continuing claims now have been below 2 million for eight straight weeks, pointing to diminishing labor market slack.
The four-week moving average of continuing claims slipped 750 to 1.91 million, the lowest level since January 1974.