Stocks Wobble As Commodity Prices Fall; Macy’s Climbs

FILE - In this June 16, 2021 file photo, flags adorn the facade of the New York Stock Exchange. Stocks are opening lower on Wall Street Thursday, Aug. 19, pulling major indexes a bit further back from the latest record highs they set at the beginning of the week. ing growth at the popular online brokerage app could slow down, and Macy's rose 6% after issuing a strong forecast. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

Stocks wobbled between small gains and losses in midday trading Thursday, as gains from technology stocks were kept in check by banks and energy companies slipping.

Commodities were getting hit hard as prices for basic materials fell sharply.

The S&P 500 index was mostly unchanged as of 11:33 a.m. Eastern. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 118 points, or 0.3% to 34,849 and the Nasdaq composite rose 0.1%. Small company stocks slumped as the Russell 2000 fell 1.3%.

Technology companies made broad gains, including 5.4% for chipmaker Nvidia after reporting strong financial results. Those gains were kept in check by drops in bank and energy stocks. The broader market has been losing ground overall since the benchmark S&P 500 reached another record high on Monday. Every major index is on track for a weekly loss.

Commodities fell, with everything from oil to agricultural commodities to metals moving broadly lower. Copper prices were down nearly 2%, while oil was down nearly 4%. The drop in commodities prices was dragging down oil companies and those who extract raw materials for industrial uses. Miner Freeport-McMoRan, Devon Energy and Occidental Petroleum fell 5% or more.

The volatility in the commodities markets is notable because investors have been acutely focused on inflation as the global economy emerges from the pandemic. Earlier this year prices for basic materials like lumber and copper and gasoline were all rising steadily and several high multi-year highs. Most of those gains have now been erased with declines in recent weeks.

Investors got a bit of positive economic news when the Labor Department reported another weekly drop in the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits. Claims fell 29,000 to 348,000 last week, a pandemic low. The four-week average fell 19,000 to just below 378,000, also a pandemic low.

While stocks are now down roughly 1.5% this week, fund managers do not expect much volatility this month as investors will have little data to work with and earnings season is now mostly over. August also tends to be a popular month for investors to take their vacations, so trading is typically slower. September tends to be a much more volatile month once Wall Street is back to work.

Government bond yields fell. The 10-year Treasury note traded at a yield of 1.24%, down from 1.27% the day before.

Robinhood sank 9.1% as traders worried that the booming growth at the popular online brokerage app could slow down. Macy’s soared 16.6% after issuing a strong forecast and reporting earnings that were far bigger than analysts were expecting. That put the iconic department store operator on track for its biggest gain since November 2020.

By DAMIAN J. TROISE - Aug 19. 2021 - 11:55 AM ET



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