Wall Street rebounded on Thursday from its largest selloff in more than eight months with help from a move to loosen internet regulations and strong economic data. Nonetheless, the Street is still watching Washington closely after reports the President tried to interfere with an investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s ties with Russia.
However, the Street was relieved by the appointment of former FBI chief Robert Mueller to investigate alleged Russian interference in the election and possible collusion between Trump’s campaign and Moscow.
The largest concern is that political events could help or hurt Trump’s ability to implement proposals such as tax reform and deregulation. At least some of the stock market’s post-election rally has been thanks to those proposals.
The Telecommunications Services sector was the S&P’s biggest percentage gainer with a 1.2-percent rise. Telecom regulators voted to advance a Republican plan to reverse a 2015 “net neutrality” order.
Earlier in the day the Philadelphia Federal Reserve said business activity index rose in May after declining for two months. Weekly unemployment data also pointed to strength in the labor market.
Indexes briefly pared gains earlier in the day after a speeding car crashed into pedestrians in New York City’s Times Square, killing one and injuring 22 people. The incident did not appear to be an act of terrorism, witnesses, police and news media said.
The S&P 500’s technology sector, one of the worst hit on Wednesday, rebounded 0.6 percent. Cisco fell 7.2 percent after the networking gear maker forecast current-quarter revenue below analysts’ estimates. Wal-Mart rose 3.2 percent at $77.54 after its quarterly earnings exceeded Street expectations.
Approximately 8.16 billion shares changed hands on the major domestic equity exchanges, as compared with the 6.99 billion share average over the past 20 trading days.
Unemployment Claims Fall Again
New applications for unemployment insurance benefits unexpectedly fell last week and the number of Americans on unemployment rolls fell to a 28-1/2-year low, pointing to rapidly shrinking labor market slack.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits decreased 4,000 to a seasonally adjusted 232,000 for the week ended May 13, the Labor Department said. That pushed claims close to levels last seen in 1973.
Claims have now decreased for three consecutive weeks. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast first-time applications for jobless benefits rising to 240,000.
Claims have now been below 300,000, a threshold associated with a healthy labor market, for 115 straight weeks. That is the longest such stretch since 1970, when the labor market was smaller. The labor market is close to full employment, with the unemployment rate at a 10-year low of 4.4 percent.
The number of people still receiving benefits after an initial week of aid fell by 22,000 claims to 1.90 million claims in the week ended May 6, the lowest level since November 1988.
Last week’s claims data covered the survey week for May’s nonfarm payrolls. Claims fell 11,000 between the April and May survey periods suggesting further job gains this month. The economy created 211,000 jobs in April after adding only 79,000 positions in March.
The economy’s brightening prospects were further boosted by other data on Thursday showing a sharp acceleration in factory activity in the mid-Atlantic region this month.
While the recent upbeat economic data support an interest rate hike next month, the Federal Reserve’s decision will also hinge on the state of financial markets, which have been rattled in recent days by Trump administration scandals. However, the labor market’s strength, key to any decision, points to a possible increase in interest rates at the Fed’s June 13-14 policy meeting.
Data such as retail sales and industrial production, which suggested that economic growth has picked up early in the second quarter also supports the expectations of a rate hike. On the other hand, a stock market sell-off amid uncertainty over President Donald Trump’s political future could jeopardize further monetary policy tightening.
Financial markets are pricing in a 60 percent chance of a 25-basis-point hike at the Fed’s June meeting, down from 78.5 percent on Tuesday, according to CME Group’s FedWatch program.
In a separate report the Philadelphia Fed said its index for current manufacturing activity in the mid-Atlantic region rose to a reading of 38.8 this month from 22.0 in April. The index recovered some of the declines of the previous two months.
The current new orders and shipments indexes remained at high readings, the survey showed. Both the delivery times and unfilled orders indexes were positive for the seventh straight month, suggesting longer delivery times and increases in unfilled orders.
Firms reported an increase in manufacturing employment this month, though the current employment index fell three points.