The major domestic equity indexes closed out Thursday’s trading in negative territory after earnings disappointed and trade jitters escalated over worries that the European Union could slap retaliatory tariffs on goods imported from the United States.
Officials from the EU Trade Commission, due in Washington next week for trade talks, are said to be preparing a list of tit-for-tat actions in response to proposed U.S. tariffs on EU cars.
The auto industry said tariffs on U.S. cars and car parts could increase vehicle prices by $83 billion annually. Ford and General Motors closed out the trading day down 0.5 percent and 1.4 percent, respectively.
Shares of eBay fell 10.1 percent after a disappointing earnings report. The stock was among the largest drags on the Nasdaq and the S&P 500.
American Express fell 2.7 percent after the company reported rising expenses due to increased spending on its rewards program.
The dollar index briefly hit a one-year high, reinforcing worries that the strong greenback could hurt results from U.S. multinationals. However, the dollar pared gains after President Donald Trump expressed concern about a strong currency.
The financial sector index was worst performer among those indexes that are part of the S&P 500 index, down 1.4 percent.
Second-quarter’s earnings season is gaining momentum, with results in so far from 69 companies in the S&P 500. Earnings now are forecast to have risen 21.5 percent, compared with the 20.7 percent gain seen on July 1.
Of the companies that have reported, 85.5 percent have surprised analyst estimates to the upside, according to Thomson Reuters data.
The yield curve flattened close to levels not seen in 11 years on upbeat economic data, dragging on banks. JPMorgan, Bank of America and Citigroup were all down more than one percent.
Bank of New York Mellon fell 5.2 percent after saying the loss of two clients will continue to hurt results, while Travelers was among the largest drags on the Dow, falling 3.7 percent following a profit miss attributed to storm-related losses.
IBM gained 3.3 percent as new business helped the company top second-quarter Street estimates.
Comcast rose 2.6 percent on news that the company had dropped its pursuit of Twenty-First Century entertainment assets to focus on its bid for Sky.
On the economic front, the Labor Department reported that the number of new unemployment claims fell last week to the lowest in more than 48-1/2 years as the labor market continues to tighten.
Approximately 6.29 billion shares changed hands on the major domestic equity exchanges, as compared to the 6.46 billion share average over the past 20 trading days.
Jobless Claims Fall Again
The number of new unemployment benefits fell last week, reaching its lowest level in more than 48-1/2 years, as the labor market continues to strengthen.
A report released by the Labor Department on Thursday morning indicated that Initial claims for state unemployment benefits fell by 8,000 claims to a seasonally adjusted 207,000 claims for the week ended July 14, the lowest reading since early December 1969. Claims data for the prior week was revised to show 1,000 more applications received than previously reported.
The second straight weekly decline in claims does reflect difficulties adjusting the data for seasonal fluctuations around this time of the year when motor vehicle manufacturers shut assembly lines for annual retooling.
With manufacturers undertaking the retooling exercise at different times in July, this can throw off the model that the government uses to the smooth the claims data for seasonal variations.
The Labor Department said only claims for Maine were estimated last week.
The four-week moving average of initial claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, fell by 2,750 claims to 220,500 claims last week.
The claims data covered the survey week for the nonfarm payrolls component of July’s employment report. The four-week average of claims dipped 500 between the June and July survey periods, suggesting solid job growth this month.
Employment gains averaged 215,000 jobs per month in the first half of this year. The labor market is viewed as being near or at full employment. There were 6.6 million unfilled jobs in May, an indication that companies cannot find qualified workers.
That was reinforced by the Fed’s Beige Book report on Wednesday showing worker shortages persisting in early July.
The Fed said the scarcity of workers was across a wide range of occupations, including highly skilled engineers, specialized construction and manufacturing workers, information technology professionals and truck drivers.
The Labor Department’s claims report also showed the number of people receiving benefits after an initial week of aid increased 8,000 to 1.75 million in the week ended July 7. The four-week moving average of the so-called continuing claims rose 6,250 to 1.74 million.