NEW YORK: Stocks were little changed Thursday as retailers slumped and investors awaited today’s jobs report for clues to whether the Federal Reserve will accelerate the pace of cutbacks in economic stimulus.
Bed Bath & Beyond Inc. sank 12 percent and L Brands Inc. slid 4.1 percent, leading losses among retailers, as earnings forecasts disappointed analysts. Macy’s Inc. and J.C. Penney Co. rallied more than 3.6 percent. Intercept Pharmaceuticals Inc. soared 281 percent after a trial of its liver disease drug worked well enough for the testing to be stopped. Alcoa Inc., the largest U.S. aluminum maker, slid 4.2 percent in extended trading after its quarterly results missed analysts’ estimates.
The S&P 500 rose less than one point to 1,838.13. The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 17.98 points, or 0.1 percent, to 16,444.76.
“You could be seeing some anticipation that the jobs number tomorrow could be really high,” said Walter Todd, who oversees about $950 million as chief investment officer of Greenwood Capital Associates LLC in Greenwood, S.C. “That could change the timetable for the Fed ... ”
Three rounds of Federal Reserve stimulus have helped propel the S&P 500 higher by as much as 173 percent from a 12-year low in 2009.
Thursday reports showed applications for U.S. unemployment benefits declined by 15,000 to 330,000 in the period ended Jan. 4. The data can be volatile after the holidays as temporary workers are dismissed.
Alcoa, the largest U.S. aluminum maker with operations in Barberton, marked the unofficial start of earnings season by reporting fourth-quarter profit that missed analysts’ estimates amid a glut of product for the aerospace industry. The shares slid 4.2 percent to $10.24 in extended trading, after losing 1.3 percent in the regular session.