U.S. Stocks Mostly Lower After Early Volatility

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After showing a lack of direction earlier in the session, stocks have moved mostly lower over the course of the trading day on Thursday. Selling pressure has remained somewhat subdued, however, limiting the downside for the major averages.

Currently, the major averages are all in negative territory but well off their worst levels of the day. The Dow is down 74.72 points or 0.3 percent at 24,501.18, the Nasdaq is down 56.11 points or 0.6 percent at 9,319.66 and the S&P 500 is down 17.19 points or 0.6 percent at 2,954.42.

The weakness on Wall Street is partly due to profit taking, as traders cash in on the strong gains posted on Monday and Wednesday.

The advance seen in the previous session lifted the Nasdaq to a three-month closing high, while the S&P 500 reached its best closing level since early March.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq has shown a particularly strong recovery from its March lows and ended Wednesday's trading less than 5 percent below the record high set in February.

Traders are also digesting a Labor Department report showing a continued decrease in first-time claims for U.S. unemployment benefits.

The report said initial jobless claims dropped to 2.438 million in the week ended May 16th, a decrease of 249,000 from the previous week's revised level of 2.687 million.

Economists had expected jobless claims to tumble to 2.400 million from the 2.981 million originally reported for the previous week.

Jobless claims fell for the seventh straight week after reaching a record high of 6.867 million in the week ended March 28th.

The total number of new claims since the coronavirus-induced lockdowns began in mid-March still reached 38.6 million.

Meanwhile, the National Association of Realtors released a report showing another steep drop in U.S. existing home sales in the month of April.

NAR said existing home sales plunged by 17.8 percent to an annual rate of 4.33 million in April after tumbling by 8.5 percent to 5.27 million in March. Economists had expected existing home sales to plummet to a rate of 4.30 million.

The continued nosedive pulled existing home sales down to their lowest level since hitting 3.45 million in July of 2010.

Sector News

Gold stocks have climbed off their worst levels of the day but continue to see significant weakness in mid-day trading, with the NYSE Arca Gold Bugs Index slumping by 3 percent.

The sell-off by gold stocks comes amid a nosedive by the price of the precious metal, as gold for June delivery is plunging $28.80 to $1,724.10 an ounce.

Considerable weakness has also emerged among semiconductor stocks, as reflected by the 1.6 percent drop by the Philadelphia Semiconductor Index. The index is pulling back off the three-month closing high set in the previous session.

Energy, healthcare and utilities stocks have also moved to the downside on the day, while notable strength remains visible among housing stocks.

Other Markets

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region moved mostly lower during trading on Thursday. Japan's Nikkei 225 Index dipped by 0.3 percent, while China's Shanghai Composite Index fell by 0.6 percent.

The major European markets also moved to the downside on the day. While the German DAX Index tumbled by 1.4 percent, the French CAC 40 Index slumped by 1.2 percent and the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index slid by 0.9 percent.

In the bond market, treasuries are extending the upward move seen over the two previous sessions. Subsequently, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note, which moves opposite of its price, is down by 1.6 basis points at 0.664 percent.

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