NEW YORK: Stock indexes closed largely unchanged on Thursday, with the S&P 500 index just managing to halt a losing streak, as cheer about a decline in jobless claims dissipated.
“I don’t get too worked up over the weekly data, the trend is much more important, and I think we are seeing incremental improvement,” said Tim Leach, chief investment officer at U.S. Bank Wealth Management.
Uncertainty ahead of the U.S. presidential election less than a month away is a likely contributor to Wall Street’s stall.
Once “the results are in, then everybody can make plans accordingly. That clarity of at least that portion of the road ahead will be reacted to positively,” regardless who wins, Leach said.
Extending losses into a fourth session, the Dow Jones industrial average fell 18.58 points, or 0.1 percent, to 13,326.39, with Bank of America Corp. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. among rising components.
Quarterly earnings are expected today from JPMorgan and Wells Fargo & Co., with the latter expected to report a record profit.
Just managing to halt losses at four sessions, the S&P 500 rose a fraction to end at 1,432.84.
Down for a fifth session in its longest string of losses in three months, the Nasdaq composite lost 2.37 points, or 0.1 percent, to 3,049.41.
“We went up 15 percent since the June lows to the September peak and now we’re down 2.25 percent, so the overarching point there is that although it feels like the market has been going down for a period of time, when you put it in a broader perspective, we’re not doing so bad,” said Art Hogan at Lazard Capital Markets.
The U.S. dollar dipped against currency rivals including the euro, and longer-term Treasury prices rose, with the yield of the benchmark 10-year note used to figure the rate on consumer loans sliding.
The price of commodities including gold and oil rose, with futures pricing a barrel of crude at $92.07.
U.S. stocks had gained much of Thursday after data showed jobless claims falling to a four-year low. The Labor Department reported fewer-than-expected Americans filing for unemployment benefits last week, with applications declining 30,000 to 339,000, the lowest since February 2008.
“This week has been one that has buffeted the market with conflicting information, from all the furor over what is real with the U.S. labor market, and what can you believe from a statistical point of view,” said Leach.
Peter Boockvar, equity strategist at Miller Tabak & Co., said a Labor Department spokesperson told him one state “subtracted 30,000 from the weekly initial jobless claims figure.”
“This would take the ‘adjusted’ number to 369,000, about in line with the original expectations of 370,000. The mixup I was told was due to a ‘timing issue’ in delivering data to the Labor Department,” Boockvar said.
A separate report had the U.S. trade deficit expanding in August as slowing global growth cut demand for U.S. goods, with American exports down to their lowest since February. Another report had the price of imports climbing more than expected last month.
Equities were also lifted as Citigroup Inc. upgraded U.S. equities and forecast a rally in global equities through the end of 2013.
Sprint Nextel Corp. shares leapt after the wireless carrier confirmed Japanese mobile carrier Softbank Corp. was in talks to buy a majority stake in Sprint.
Shares of Clearwire Corp., in which Sprint owns a majority stake, rallied. Shares of MetroPCS Communications Inc. fell 3.3 percent on the view a Softbank deal would prevent Sprint from trying to top the bid for MetroPCS, which recently agreed to be purchased by Deutsche Telekom AG.