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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Wall St Wavers as Markets Await More Policy Cues

U.S. stocks struggled for direction on Thursday as investors awaited further policy cues from central bank officials, including Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell, as well as a raft of economic data next week.

Softer-than-expected monthly jobs data and the easing of the Fed’s hawkish stance at its last meeting pulled U.S. Treasury yields down from multi-year highs, helping equities stage a stellar comeback from their October lows.

The S&P 500 index eked out marginal gains on Wednesday but managed to extend its winning streak to the eighth session.

If the benchmark index ends higher on Thursday, it will post its longest streak of gains since 2004.

“The market today is digesting a pretty epic move in the last week and a half,” said David Russell, global head of market strategy at TradeStation.

“This week is kind of a dead zone for economic news, but next week we are going to have CPI (consumer prices), PPI (producer prices) and retail sales. People might be waiting for some more clarity on those.”

A majority of traders are betting that the Fed will keep interest rates unchanged this year, with odds of a cut of at least 25 basis points in May standing at nearly 46%, according to the CME Group’s FedWatch tool.

Several policymakers this week have pushed back against rate cut expectations, with some stressing on a data-dependent approach to monetary policy.

Richmond Fed President Thomas Barkin on Thursday said that while there’s been “real progress” on inflation, it is yet unclear if the U.S. central bank will need to push its policy rate higher to finish the job

Fed Chair Jerome Powell is scheduled to speak at an International Monetary Fund (IMF) conference at 2 p.m. ET (1900 GMT). He had refused to comment on monetary policy at another conference on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, a Labor Department report showed jobless claims edged lower last week to 217,000.

The yield on the benchmark ten-year Treasury note rose to 4.5609%.

Among major movers, Nvidia shares rose 2.9% as local media reported the chip designer is planning to release three new chips for China.

Tesla fell 4.0% as HSBC initiated coverage of the EV maker with a “reduce” rating.

Walt Disney advanced 7.3% on a quarterly profit beat and as Hollywood actors reached a tentative agreement with major studios.

Five of the 11 major S&P 500 sectors traded higher, while healthcare shares were a drag, down 1.4%.

At 11:38 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 21.79 points, or 0.06%, at 34,090.48, the S&P 500 was up 1.09 points, or 0.02%, at 4,383.87, and the Nasdaq Composite was up 19.14 points, or 0.14%, at 13,669.55.

Among other stocks, semiconductor firm Arm Holdings dropped 6.2% on a downbeat third-quarter sales forecast.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 1.07-to-1 ratio on the NYSE. Declining issues outnumbered advancers for a 1.42-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 14 new 52-week highs and seven new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 26 new highs and 170 new lows.

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