The major domestic equity indexes gained ground on Thursday as technology and other growth sectors rebounded from the prior day’s declines and financial shares snapped a 13-day losing streak.
The technology sector rose 1.1 percent, adding the most gains to the S&P 500. The sector’s top gainer was consulting firm Accenture PLC, which rose 5.9 percent after it reported quarterly revenue and profit above estimates
The S&P 500 financial index rose ahead of results from the second round of the U.S. Federal Reserve’s stress test for banks and lenders.
Financial stocks have been battered recently as the Treasury yield curve between 2-year and 10-year notes flattened. One idea was that the financial sector was due to bounce back after its string of losses.
Earlier in the day, the S&P 500 seesawed between gains and losses. There was a degree of caution on the Street, given lingering concerns over our international trade relations, as the end of the quarter approached.
Shares of several drugstore chains, drug distributors and pharmacy benefit managers fell after Amazon.com Inc said it would buy online pharmacy Pill Pack. Amazon’s entry into the pharmacy business could disrupt major players in the field nationwide, with mail-order pharmacies seen fighting the biggest battles. Amazon shares rose 2.5 percent.
Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc, already under pressure after its third-quarter earnings report fell 9.9 percent after touching a more than 3-1/2-year low. It weighed the most on the Dow, followed by UnitedHealth Group, which was down 1.3 percent.
Shares of CVS Health Corp sank 6.1 percent, Rite Aid was declined 11.1 percent and Express Scripts Holding Co lost 1.4 percent.
Amazon’s reach was not limited to the health sector. Its plans to entice entrepreneurs to set up their own package-delivery businesses sent shares of United Parcel Service and FedEx fell 2.3 percent and 1.3 percent, respectively.
Starbucks Corp ended the trading day down 2.6 percent after the company said its chief financial officer, Scott Maw, will retire at the end of November.
Approximately 7.13 billion shares changed hands on the major domestic equity exchanges, as compared to the 7.28 billion share average over the past 20 trading days.
Jobless Claims Increase
The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits increased more than expected last week, but the trend in claims remained consistent with a tightening labor market.
According to a report released by the Labor Department on Thursday morning, initial claims for state unemployment benefits rose by 9,000 claims to a seasonally adjusted 227,000 claims for the week ended June 23. Claims data for the prior week was unrevised. The number of claims had been declining for four straight weeks prior to the latest data.
The labor market is viewed as being near or at full employment, with the jobless rate at an 18-year low of 3.8 percent. The unemployment rate has dropped by three-tenths of a percentage point this year and is near the Federal Reserve’s forecast of 3.6 percent by the end of this year.
The Labor Department said claims for Maine and Wyoming were estimated last week.
The four-week moving average of initial claims, viewed as a better measure of labor market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, edged up by1,000 claims to 222,000 claims last week.
The claims report also showed the number of people receiving benefits after an initial week of aid fell 21,000 to 1.71 million in the week ended June 16. The four-week moving average of the so-called continuing claims dropped 3,750 to 1.72 million, the lowest level since December 1973.
The continuing claims data covered the week of the household survey from which June’s unemployment rate will be derived. The four-week average of continuing claims decreased 32,000 between the May and June survey periods, suggesting a further decline in the jobless rate this month was likely.
First Quarter GDP Number Lowered
The economy slowed more than previously estimated in the first quarter amid the weakest consumer spending in nearly five years, but growth appears to have since regained momentum on the back of a robust labor market and tax cuts.
According to a report by the Commerce Department released on Thursday, the nation’s gross domestic product increased at a 2.0 percent annual rate in the January-March period, in its third estimate of first-quarter GDP, instead of the 2.2 percent pace it reported last month.
The economy grew at a 2.9 percent rate in the fourth quarter. The downgrade to first-quarter growth reflected weaker consumer spending and a smaller inventory build than the government had estimated last month.
A $1.5 trillion income tax cut package, which came into effect in January, is expected to spur faster economic growth in the second quarter, putting annual GDP growth on track to achieve the Trump administration’s 3 percent target.
However, be aware that the administration’s “America First” policies, which have heightened fears of trade wars, are casting a pall over the economy’s prospects.
We are engaged in tit-for-tat trade tariffs with its major trade partners, including China, Canada, Mexico and the European Union. Tariffs could disrupt supply chains, undercut business investment and potentially wipe out the fiscal stimulus.
Estimates of second-quarter growth are as high as a 5.3 percent rate. Economists had expected first-quarter GDP growth would be unrevised at a 2.2 percent pace.
The moderate first-quarter growth is probably not a true reflection of the economy’s health as GDP tends to be weak at the start of the year because of a seasonal quirk.
An alternative measure of economic growth, gross domestic income (GDI), increased at a brisk 3.6 percent rate in the January-March period. That was revised up from the 2.8 percent pace reported last month.
The average of GDP and GDI, also referred to as gross domestic output and considered a better measure of economic activity, increased at a 2.8 percent rate in the first quarter, instead of the 2.5 percent pace estimated in May.
The income side of the growth ledger gained from after-tax corporate profits, which rose at an 8.7 percent rate last quarter, rather than the 5.9 percent pace reported in May.
The government reduced the corporate tax rate to 21 percent from 35 percent effective in January. After-tax profits rose at a 1.7 percent pace in the fourth quarter.
Growth in consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, fell to a 0.9 percent rate in the first quarter instead of the previously reported 1.0 percent pace.
It was the slowest pace since the second quarter of 2013 and reflected downward revisions to healthcare spending by nonprofits and outlays on finance and insurance services.
Consumer spending grew at a 4.0 percent rate in the fourth quarter. Retail sales reports have suggested consumer spending was accelerating in the second quarter. Spending is being supported by a tightening labor market, which is gradually boosting wage growth.
Weak domestic demand in the first quarter likely made businesses cautious about stocking warehouses. Businesses accumulated inventories at a rate of $13.9 billion instead of the $20.2 billion pace estimated last month. As a result, inventory investment was neutral to first-quarter GDP growth instead of adding 0.13 percentage point as reported last month.
Data so far suggest that inventories could be a small drag on second-quarter GDP growth.
While the trade deficit in the first three months of the year was a bit bigger than initially thought, it had little impact on growth. Trade is expected to contribute to GDP growth in the second quarter after data on Wednesday showed a sharp drop in the goods trade deficit in May.
Growth in business spending on equipment was revised up to a 5.8 percent rate in the first quarter from the 5.5 percent pace estimated last month. Spending on equipment has slowed following double-digit growth in the second half of 2017.
The trend is likely to persist in the second quarter as the government on Wednesday reported an unexpected drop in both orders and shipments of non-defense capital goods excluding aircraft in May.
The moderation in business spending on equipment could undercut the Trump’s administration’s argument that lower corporate tax rates would boost investment. Some companies like Apple have used their tax windfall for share buybacks and dividends.