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Major Averages Finish Choppy Trading Session Mixed - U.S. Commentary


Stocks showed a lack of direction throughout the trading day on Thursday following the notable upward move seen in the previous session. The major averages spent the day bouncing back and forth across the unchanged line.

Eventually, the major averages ended the day mixed. While the Dow inched up 7.05 points or less than a tenth of a percent to 25,709.94, the Nasdaq dipped 12.50 points or 0.2 percent to 7,630.91 and the S&P 500 edged down 2.44 points or 0.1 percent to 2.808.48.

The choppy trading on Wall Street came on the heels of recent volatility on Wall Street, with the upward move seen over the past few sessions largely offsetting the pullback seen last week.

Uncertainty about Brexit also kept traders on the sidelines, with members of parliament voting in favor of delaying Brexit after they rejected the idea of leaving the European Union without a deal.

Renewed concerns about a potential trade deal between the U.S. and China weighed on the markets after a report from Bloomberg said a meeting between President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping has been pushed back.

Citing three people familiar with the matter, Bloomberg said the meeting to sign an agreement to end the U.S.-China trade war won't occur this month and is more likely to happen in April at the earliest.

The report from Bloomberg comes after Trump told reporters on Wednesday that he is in "no rush" to complete a trade deal with China.

On the U.S. economic front, the Commerce Department released a report showing a substantial pullback in new home sales in the month of January.

The Commerce Department said new home sales plunged by 6.9 percent to an annual rate of 607,000 in January from a revised rate of 652,000 in December.

Economists had expected new home sales to edge down to a rate of 620,000 from the 621,000 originally reported for the previous month.

Before the start of trading, the Labor Department released a report showing first-time claims for U.S. unemployment benefits increased by more than expected in the week ended March 9th.

The report said initial jobless claims rose to 229,000, an increase of 6,000 from the previous week's unrevised level of 223,000. Economists had expected jobless claims to edge up to 225,000.

A separate report released by the Labor Department showed U.S. import and export prices both rose by more than anticipated in the month of February.

The Labor Department said import prices climbed by 0.6 percent in February after inching up by a revised 0.1 percent in January.

Economists had expected import prices to rise by 0.3 percent compared to the 0.5 percent drop originally reported for the previous month.

The report said export prices also increased by 0.6 percent in February after falling by a revised 0.5 percent in January.

Export prices had been expected to tick up by 0.1 percent compared to the 0.6 percent decrease originally reported for the previous month.

Sector News

Most of the major sectors ended the day showing only modest moves, contributing to the lackluster close by the broader markets.

Substantial weakness was visible among gold stocks, however, with the NYSE Arca Gold Bugs Index plunging by 2.9 percent after trending higher over the past few sessions.

Gold stocks pulled back along with the price of the precious metal, with gold for April delivery tumbling $14.10 to $1,295.20 an ounce.

Steel stocks also showed a notable move to the downside over the course of the session, dragging the NYSE Arca Steel Index down by 1.3 percent.

Chemical and biotechnology stocks also saw some weakness on the day, while moderate strength emerged among financial stocks.

Other Markets

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region turned in a mixed performance during trading on Thursday. Japan's Nikkei 225 Index closed marginally lower, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index edged up by 0.2 percent.

Meanwhile, the major European markets all moved to the upside on the day. While the German DAX Index crept up by 0.1 percent, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index rose by 0.4 percent and the French CAC 40 Index advanced by 0.8 percent.

In the bond, treasuries moved modestly lower after initially showing a lack of direction. As a result, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note, which moves opposite of its price, inched up by 1.9 basis points to 2.630 percent.

Looking Ahead

Trading on Friday may be impacted by another batch of U.S. economic data, including reports on New York-area manufacturing activity, industrial production, and consumer sentiment.

On the earnings front, Adobe (ADBE), Broadcom (AVGO), Jabil (JBL), and Oracle (ORCL) are among the companies releasing their quarterly results after the close of today's trading.

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