Stocks Wobble As Investors Weigh Jobs, Inflation Reports

FILE - In this March 23, 2021 file photo, pedestrians walk past the New York Stock Exchange in New York's Financial District. Stocks are opening slightly lower on Wall Street Thursday, Aug. 12, as weakness in chipmakers and other tech companies offsets gains in other sectors including health care. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

Stocks wobbled between small gains and losses Thursday in quiet trading as weakness in chipmakers offset gains by health care companies and other sectors.

The S&P 500 index was up less than 0.1% as of 11:49 a.m. Eastern. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 110 points, or 0.3%, to 35,374 and the Nasdaq composite was up 0.2%.

Big technology stocks helped counter a dip from chipmakers. Apple rose 1.6% and Adobe rose 1.4%, while Micron Technology fell 6.6%. The majority of stocks in the benchmark S&P 500 were falling.

Investors were working through a mixed picture of economic data. The Labor Department said that jobless claims fell to 375,000 from 387,000 the previous week, another sign that the job market is healing from the pandemic.

But at the same time, inflation at the wholesale level jumped a higher-than-expected 1% in July, matching the rise from the previous month, and dimming hopes that the upward trajectory of prices would begin to slow. The producer price index has risen a record 7.8% over the last 12 months. That’s the largest one-year increase in a series going back to 2010.

Much of the increase is coming from services, such as airline travel. Airline ticket prices are especially high as the industry tries to recover from the pandemic-forced slump in travel. Other areas are starting to ease up, though, with food costs falling for the time since December.

Investors have been particularly concerned about inflation for several months, despite assurances from the Federal Reserve and other officials that any inflation would be temporary and a result of the economy recovering. Bond yields have risen sharply the last week on those concerns, with the 10-year Treasury note trading at 1.36% versus 1.34% the day before.

The hopes for a continued recovery in the jobs market and concerns about inflation are hovering over the market as investors try to gauge the pace of economic growth after a sharp increase earlier in the year. Analysts expect the economy to grow at a slower pace as the economy moves past the pandemic and the sharp comparisons between 2021 and 2020.

“We don’t have a different economy than what we had going into the pandemic,” said Kimberly Woody, senior portfolio manager at Globalt. “Once you get rid of the comparisons and you cross the anniversary of the fourth quarter, you’re right back at the same economy you had before.”

Earnings season is beginning to wind down. Companies that will report their results later Thursday include Dow member Walt Disney, travel company Airbnb and delivery giant DoorDash.

By DAMIAN J. TROISE - Aug 12. 2021 - 12:11 PM ET




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