Stocks were mixed Thursday following a decline in weekly jobless claims as businesses gradually rehired workers amid easing pandemic-induced restrictions.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 36 points, or 0.12%, to 31,400, the S&P 500 was up 0.05% and the Nasdaq gained 0.38%.
The Dow set an intraday high Thursday after closing at a record high Wednesday. The Nasdaq edged closer to an all-time high amid gains for big technology shares.
The Labor Department reported Thursday that 793,000 Americans filed for first-time jobless benefits in the week ended Feb. 6, down from an upwardly revised 812,000 claims the week earlier. Economists polled by FactSet had expected claims of 757,000.
“It does seem like we’re treading water somewhat on the employment front,’ said Mike Loewengart, managing director of investment strategy at E*Trade. “The jobs numbers only compound (Jerome) Powell’s remarks from (Wednesday) on the challenges ahead to get the labor market where it was.
“Jobs numbers haven’t necessarily been a market mover during the pandemic, but stimulus progress has. And the continued stagnation only underscores the need for more relief,” he added.
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said Wednesday in a speech that the U.S. labor market was a “long way” from a recovery.
“We are still very far from a strong labor market whose benefits are broadly shared,” Powell said Wednesday in a speech before the Economic Club of New York. “Achieving and sustaining maximum employment will require more than supportive monetary policy.”
Powell’s speech was made as President Joe Biden and Democrats push a $1.9 trillion coronavirus stimulus package that likely will be passed without support from lawmakers on the Republican side.
The size of the stimulus package and a ramp up in consumer spending when coronavirus lockdowns ease have Wall Street closely watching for signs of inflation.
Nancy Davis, founder of Quadratic Capital Management, said while data on U.S. consumer prices weren’t showing an increase in inflation now, it’s “on its way thanks to fiscal and monetary stimulus and pent-up consumer demand that should intensify as the economy reopens.”
Oil prices traded slightly lower Thursday after crude put in its longest run of gains in two years. West Texas intermediate crude oil, the U.S. benchmark, was down 0.2% to $58.56 a barrel on Thursday.