Stocks Rise After Jobless Claims, GDP Data

U.S. stock futures were mixed after a slew of economic data releases that are expected to spur discussion among investors about the Federal Reserve’s response to the strengthening economic recovery.

Futures tied to the S&P 500 were relatively flat, wavering between small gains and losses. Nasdaq-100 futures declined 0.3%, pointing to moderate losses for technology stocks after the opening bell. Futures linked to the Dow Jones Industrial Average advanced 0.4%.

Investors will keep a close eye on so-called meme stocks popular with online traders. In premarket trading, shares of

AMC Entertainment

declined nearly 5% and

GameStop

over 3% after Wednesday’s fresh bout of trading enthusiasm.

Broader stock indexes have wavered this week as concerns about runaway inflation dwindled and Fed officials signaled that discussions about adjusting the pace of asset purchases may commence in the near future. Investors are closely monitoring indicators of economic activity to try to understand when monetary stimulus could begin to be scaled back.

“We’re trying to understand if there is this bigger-than-life moment for the U.S. economy. It will question what the Fed should do,” said Ludovic Subran, chief economist at Allianz. “The equity market has been in a bit of a wait-and see-mode, waiting for this confirmation.”

The latest data on initial jobless claims, a proxy for layoffs, came in at 406,000, down from 444,000 the previous week. It came in below the level economists were expecting and reached a new pandemic low, as the labor market continues to improve.

Orders for durable goods in the U.S. for April fell by 1.3%. Economists were widely predicting a rise. Meantime, the U.S. economy expanded at an annualized rate of 6.4% in the first quarter, according to a revision out Thursday.

The spurt of growth spurred by the economy reopening may be nearing its peak, said Andrew Cole, a multiasset fund manager at Pictet Asset Management. “We’ll likely see a deceleration in the growth rate from here and that’s always an uncomfortable time for markets.”

Earnings season is winding down, with a few companies still left to report.

Salesforce.com

and

Costco

are expected to release their results after markets close.

In premarket trading, home-goods company

Williams-Sonoma

rose over 3% after reporting a sixfold surge in quarterly profit and raising its full-year outlook.

Ford Motor

was up 2.6%, rising for a second day after saying it expected 40% of its vehicle volume to be fully electric by 2030.

Best Buy

added 2% after it raised its outlook for annual comparable sales, saying that demand for technology products remained high.

In bond markets, the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note ticked up to 1.613% from 1.572% Wednesday.

Overseas, the pan-continental Stoxx Europe 600 edged up 0.2%.

Royal Dutch Shell

retreated by 1.4% a day after a Dutch court ruled that the oil company was partially responsible for climate change, and ordered it to speed up its carbon-reduction plans.

Shares of

Airbus

climbed 8.5% after it told its suppliers to prepare for a ramp-up in plane production. Bayer fell 4.6% after a U.S. judge rejected an attempt to limit future liability related to whether its Roundup weedkiller causes cancer.

In Asia, major benchmarks were mixed. The Shanghai Composite Index added 0.4% while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index declined 0.2%.

Bitcoin rose 2.5% from Wednesday’s level at 5 p.m., trading around $39,700, after rising above $40,000 the previous day. The cryptocurrency is down close to 40% from its mid-April high.

Stock indexes have wavered this week as concerns about runaway inflation have dwindled.



Photo:

Courtney Crow/Associated Press

Corrections & Amplifications
Initial jobless claims came in at 406,000, down from 444,000 the prior week. An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the prior week’s number of claims. (Corrected on May 27, 2021)

Write to Anna Hirtenstein at anna.hirtenstein@wsj.com

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