U.S. Stocks Turning In Lackluster Performance, Dow Nearly Flat

wallstreet sept18 13jan21 lt

Stocks have shown a lack of direction over the course of the trading day on Wednesday following the modest uptick seen in the previous session. The major averages have spent the day bouncing back and forth across the unchanged line.

Currently, the major averages are all in positive territory. The Dow is up 7.95 points or less than a tenth of a percent at 31,076.64, the Nasdaq is up 74.28 points or 0.6 percent at 13,146.72 and the S&P 500 is up 8.44 points or 0.2 percent at 3,809.63.

The choppy trading on Wall Street comes as traders express some uncertainty about the near-term outlook for the markets following the recent advance to record highs.

Optimism about additional stimulus under President-elect Joe Biden has helped to support the markets, although traders also remain concerned about the recent spike in coronavirus cases.

Political uncertainty may also be keeping some traders on the sidelines as House Democrats prepare to impeach President Donald Trump for a second time.

Democrats plan to impeach Trump over allegations that he incited last week's violent attack on the U.S. Capitol building.

The move by Democrats comes as Vice President Mike Pence has indicated he will not invoke the 25th Amendment as part of an effort to remove Trump from office.

"I do not believe that such a course of action is in the best interest of our Nation or consistent with our Constitution," Pence wrote in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

In U.S. economic news, the Labor Department released a report showing U.S. consumer prices increased in line with economist estimates in the month of December.

The report said the consumer price index rose by 0.4 percent in December after edging up by 0.2 percent in November. The price growth matched expectations.

The Labor Department said the advance by the consumer price index was driven by an 8.4 percent jump in gasoline prices, which accounted for more than 60 percent of the overall increase.

Excluding food and energy prices, the core consumer price index inched up by 0.1 percent in December after rising by 0.2 percent in November. The uptick in core prices also matched economist estimates.

Later in the day, the Federal Reserve is scheduled to release its Beige Book, a compilation of economic evidence from the twelve Fed districts.

Most of the major sectors are showing only modest moves on the day, contributing to the lackluster performance by the broader markets.

Oil service stocks have shown a significant move to the downside, however, with the Philadelphia Oil Service Index slumping by 2.1 percent. The index ended the previous session at its best closing level in over ten months.

The weakness among oil service stocks comes despite an uptick by the price of crude oil, as crude for February delivery is inching up $0.03 to $53.24 a barrel.

Considerable weakness is also visible among steel stocks, resulting in a 1.8 percent drop by the NYSE Arca Steel Index.

Airline and networking stocks are also seeing notable weakness, while utilities and commercial real estate stocks have shown strong moves to the upside.

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region turned in a mixed performance during trading on Wednesday. Japan's Nikkei 225 Index jumped by 1 percent, while China's Shanghai Composite Index fell by 0.3 percent.

The major European markets have also turned mixed on the day. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index is down by 0.1 percent, the French CAC 40 Index and the German DAX Index are both up by 0.3 percent.

In the bond market, treasuries are regaining ground after moving sharply lower over the past several sessions. As a result, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note, which moves opposite of its price, is down by 3.6 basis points at 1.102 percent.

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