Choppy is the best word to describe how stocks behaved Thursday, with the major indexes spending the session bouncing between positive and negative territory.
In focus today was the release of several economic reports, with weak housing data drawing the most attention. The National Association of Realtors this morning said existing home sales fell for a sixth straight month in July – down 5.9% from June to a seasonally adjusted rate of 4.81 million homes. On a year-over-year basis, existing home sales were off 20.2%.
"Outside of the initial months of the pandemic, existing home sales in July fell to the lowest level since 2015," says Jeffrey Roach, chief economist for independent broker-dealer LPL Financial. "A slowdown in housing has real economic impacts across the economy. For the demographic without home equity or a fixed-rate mortgage, inflationary pressures are acute and, unfortunately, rent prices are accelerating."
Also on the data front, the Labor Department this morning said weekly jobless claims edged down 2,000 last week to 250,000. The consensus estimate was for initial jobless claims to arrive at 265,000. "As long as the labor market remains stable, the Fed will continue increasing rates," Roach says. The economist expects the central bank to raise rates by half a percentage point in September, marking a slowdown from back-to-back 75 basis-point rate hikes in June and July. (A basis point is one-one hundredth of a percentage point).
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Amid this mixed economic data, the major indexes failed to make any big moves. The Nasdaq Composite was up 0.5% at its session peak, before settling with a slimmer 0.2% gain at 12,965. The S&P 500 Index pared a portion of its earlier lead to end the day up 0.2% at 4,283. And the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which was lower for most of the day, eked out a 0.1% win to finish at 33,999.
Other news in the stock market today:
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