U.S. stocks on Thursday were indicated lower, with the three main benchmarks looking at a fourth straight decline after an account of the Federal Reserve’s late-April policy meeting showed that members were starting to consider reducing elements of the central bank’s pandemic-inspired accommodative measures.
Investors will be watching for a weekly update of labor-market conditions and a reading of manufacturing activity in the Philadelphia area, both set to be released at 8:30 a.m. Eastern Time.
How are stock benchmarks performing?
- Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average YMM21, -0.34% YM00, -0.34% were off 141 points, or 0.4%, at 33,691.
- S&P 500 index futures ES00, -0.20% ESM21, -0.20% fell 13.85 points to reach 4,097.50, a decline of 0.3%.
- Nasdaq-100 futures NQ00, -0.06% NQM21, -0.06% retreats 34 points, or 0.3%, to reach 13,199.50.
On Wednesday, stocks ended well off session lows but still lost ground. The Dow DJIA, -0.48% fell 164.62 points to close at 33,896.04, a decline of 0.5%, after a drop of more than 580 points at its session low. The S&P 500 index SPX, -0.29% shed 12.15 points, or 0.3%, to end at 4,115.68. The Nasdaq Composite Index COMP, -0.03% finished virtually flat, off 3.90 points at 13,299.74, well off its Wednesday low of 13,072.23.
What’s driving the market?
Equity benchmarks looked set to extend their slide on Thursday.
“Momentum is indeed waning in U.S. stocks as fatigue sets in and anxiety slowly rises (elevated volatility), but we are missing a clear trigger for a significant, albeit temporary, setback,” wrote Sebastien Galy, strategist at Nordea Asset Management, in a daily note.
The downtrend shaping up in U.S. equity markets has been attributed to concerns about lofty stock valuations, uncertainties about the degree to which the recovery will boost inflation, and worries that evidence of excess is building in parts of the financial system.
Against that backdrop, turbulence has become a bigger feature of the market as investors parse key data points and comments from the Fed that could offer clarity on the outlook for the economy and market.
Market participants are still digesting Fed minutes from Wednesday, which showed that “a number of participants suggested that if the economy continued to make rapid progress toward the Committee’s goals, it might be appropriate at some point in upcoming meetings to begin discussing a plan for adjusting the pace of asset purchases.”
Most Fed members have said that the economy hasn’t made substantial progress toward its goal of a healthy and vibrant labor market to merit a removal of accommodation, but talk of tapering has historically been a boogeyman for risk-taking.
“Tentative — the question remains: when does the Fed think it’s hit the landing area for the economy, and does inflation take off in the meantime?” wrote Neil Wilson, chief market analyst at Markets.com, in a note.
Adding to overall concerns about the mood on Wall Street, has been the downturn in bitcoin BTCUSD, +4.16%, which has been regarded as a sign of waning risk appetite. Bitcoin took a $10,000 U-turn on Wednesday, hitting a low around $30,000 only to return to a price around $40,000, amid a wild selloff for the world’s No. 1 digital asset.
Looking ahead, a report on weekly jobless claims is set to be released later in the morning while the Philadelphia Fed’s manufacturing index is also due at the same time and will likely be pored over for further evidence of pricing pressures building in the economy.
Among Fed speakers, Dallas Fed President Rob Kaplan is slated to deliver a speech at economic development organization Borderplex Alliance at 10:30 a.m. Eastern. Kaplan has been virtually alone among Fed officials in arguing that policy makers should begin talking about an eventual withdrawal of monetary support.
Which companies are in focus?
- Shares of Lithia Motors Inc. LAD fell 0.8% in premarket trading Thursday, putting them on track for a fourth straight loss, after the auto retailer announced the pricing of its $1 billion stock offering and upsized debt offering.
- Hormel Foods Corp. HRL, reported Thursday fiscal second-quarter profit and sales that topped expectations, and raised its full-year outlook, even as volumes declined.
- Pfizer Inc. PFE and German partner BioNTech SE BNTX said Thursday they have reached a new agreement with the European Commission to supply up to 1.8 billion additional doses of their COVID-19 vaccine.