Summary

The S&P 500 index ended slightly lower on Thursday after the New York Times reported that Special Counsel Robert Mueller had issued a subpoena for documents related to President Donald Trump’s businesses offset strong jobs and manufacturing data.

The S&P fell to a session low soon after the report was released but recovered much of its losses by the market close. It has fallen for four straight days, its longest losing streak since December.

The Dow pared some gains but still ended higher for the first time in four days.

As earnings season has drawn to a close, political developments, such as the ouster of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson this week, have significantly influenced the direction of financial markets.

Earlier, the S&P had opened with gains as government data showed weekly U.S. jobless claims fell last week, pointing to a strong labor market. Manufacturing surveys from the New York Fed and Philadelphia Fed also pointed to a tightening labor market.

There were also some gains after Peter Navarro, the White House’s top adviser on international trade, said in a CNBC interview Trump’s tough approach to global trade, including tariffs on metals imports, would not necessarily provoke retaliation.

The S&P industrial index rose 0.3 percent, leading all sectors, and posted its first session of gains in four days as worries of a trade war eased. Caterpillar was up 1.3 percent.

Among stocks, Alibaba rose 3.4 percent on a report that the Chinese e-commerce company was planning a secondary listing in China.

Dollar General ended the trading day up 4.8 percent after the discount retailer’s quarterly same-store sales exceeded estimates.

Qorvo fell 3.9 percent after Bank of America said the radio frequency chipmaker could lose out to Broadcom for a spot in upcoming iPhones.

Approximately 6.65 billion shares changed hands on the major domestic equity exchanges, compared to the 7.08 billion share average over the past 20 trading days.

Unemployment Claims Fall

The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits fell last week, pointing to sustained labor strength even as economic growth appears to have slowed early in the first quarter.

The Labor Department indicated on Thursday morning that Initial claims for state unemployment benefits fell by 4,000 claims to 226,000 claims seasonally adjusted for the week ended March 10. Claims decreased to 210,000 during the week ended Feb. 24, which was the lowest level since December 1969.

Last week’s decline made it the 158th straight week that claims remained below the 300,000 claims threshold, which is associated with a strong labor market. That is the longest such stretch since 1970, when the labor market was much smaller.

Fed officials consider the labor market to be near or a little beyond full employment. The unemployment rate is at a 17-year low of 4.1 percent.

The economy created 313,000 jobs in February, and it is likely that tightening labor market conditions will raise wage growth in the second half of this year. That in turn should help to underpin consumer spending, which slowed at the start of the year.

Gross domestic product growth estimates for the first quarter are as low as a 1.7 percent annualized rate. Reports on home sales and industrial production in January have also been weak. The economy grew at a 2.5 percent pace in the fourth quarter.

In another report, the Labor Department said import prices increased 0.4 percent last month after accelerating 0.8 percent in January. That lifted the year-on-year increase in import prices to 3.5 percent from January.

Last month, prices for imported capital goods rose 0.6 percent, making it the largest increase since April 2008 and followed an unchanged reading in January.

Prices of imported consumer goods, excluding automobiles, rose 0.5 percent, the largest gain since January 2014, after edging up 0.1 percent in the prior month. These price increases likely reflected the dollar’s depreciation against the currencies of the United States’ main trading partners and will eventually filter through to core producer and consumer inflation.

Imported petroleum prices fell 0.5 percent in February, the first drop in seven months, after rising 3.0 percent in January. Import prices excluding petroleum rose 0.5 percent after a similar gain in January.

The price of goods imported from China rose 0.2 percent. Prices for imports from China increased 0.3 percent in the 12 months through February, the biggest advance since June 2014.