S&P 500 hits record amid higher-than-expected jobless claims and continued Fed support

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on December 07, 2018 in New York City
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange .

  • The S&P 500 stretched further in record highs Thursday as the Federal Reserve signaled it will accommodate conditions for economic growth.
  • Technology stocks tracked on the Nasdaq Composite led gainers.
  • Jobless claims rose to 744,000, pointing to persistently high unemployment levels.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

US stocks hung around record Thursday, with the S&P 500 hitting a new high after insight from the Federal Reserve indicated that monetary policy makers will maintain their stance in supporting growth in the world’s largest economy as it continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The S&P 500 index pushed further into record-high territory after reaching a closing peak in the previous session. Technology stocks marched up but blue-chip stocks tracked on the Dow Jones Industrial Average tilted slightly lower.

Stock futures ahead of the open showed little reaction to the Labor Department’s report that weekly jobless claims rose to 744,000, higher than the 680,000 claims expected by economists surveyed by Bloomberg. The report indicated that unemployment remains at persistently high levels, with the previous week’s reading upwardly revised to 728,000 from 719,000.

Here’s where US indexes stood at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday:

Members of the Fed’s rate-setting board expect “it would likely be some time until substantial further progress” on reaching targets of maximum employment and above-2% inflation, according to the minutes from the Federal Reserve Open Market Committee’s mid-March meeting released Wednesday.

“FOMC members were quite positive on short-term growth prospects, but made quite clear that short-term acceleration only goes so far towards their long-term “full employment” goal, suggesting even if growth remains robust through 2Q 2021, we’ll still be in a waiting pattern for Fed policy,” Guy LeBas, chief fixed-income strategist at Janney Montgomery Scott, told Insider in emailed comments.

“On balance, there was nothing material in the minutes which changes my view of a reduction in [quantitative easing] beginning in early-2022 followed by a potential first rate hike in late-2022,” said LeBas. “I view a 2022 QE reduction as much more likely than a 2022 rate hike,” he said. “If anything, the first hike will be later and the path of hikes steeper than what the markets have currently priced.”

Around the markets, GameStop shares rose after the video game retailer said it plans to elect Reddit favorite Ryan Cohen as chairman.

Trading app Robinhood reportedly failed to disclose data on certain stock trades for more than a year.

Billionaire tech investor Peter Thiel warned bitcoin might serve as a Chinese financial weapon against the US – and says it threatens the dollar.

Gold rose 0.6% to $1,753.20 per ounce. Long-dated US Treasury yields fell, with the 10-year yield down at 1.647%.

Oil prices were mixed. West Texas Intermediate crude lost 1% to trade at $59.23 per barrel. Brent crude, oil’s international benchmark, dropped 0.6%, to $62.76 per barrel.

Bitcoin rose 2.1% to $57,546.

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