U.S. Stocks Firmly Negative Amid Extremely Volatile Session

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Stocks have seen substantial volatility during trading on Thursday, with the major averages showing wild swings over the course of the session.

Currently, the major averages are all firmly in negative territory. The Dow is down 360.14 points or 1.1 percent at 31,473.97, the Nasdaq is down 104.19 points or 0.9 percent at 11,260.04 and the S&P 500 is down 41.13 points or 1.1 percent at 3,894.05.

The volatility on Wall Street comes as traders continue to debate whether the markets have hit their bottom, with the major averages falling to their worst levels in over a year.

However, recent bargain hunting efforts have largely been thwarted by worries about the Federal Reserve aggressively raising interest rates in an effort to combat elevated inflation.

Traders have recently expressed concerns more aggressive moves by the Fed and other central banks could lead to a period of stagflation or an outright recession.

Adding to the worries, the Labor Department released a report this morning showing the annual rate of producer price growth slowed by less than expected in the month of April.

The report showed the annual rate of growth in producer prices slowed to 11.0 percent in April from a record high 11.5 percent in March, although economists had expected a bigger slowdown to 10.7 percent.

Core producer prices, which exclude prices for food, energy and trade services, were up by 6.9 percent compared to a year ago, reflecting a modest slowdown from the 7.1 percent spike seen in the previous month.

A separate report released by the Labor Department unexpectedly showed a slight increase in first-time claims for U.S. unemployment benefits in the week ended May 7th.

The Labor Department said initial jobless claims crept up to 203,000, an increase of 1,000 from the previous week's revised level of 202,000.

The uptick surprised economists, who had expected jobless claims to dip to 195,000 from the 200,000 originally reported for the previous week.

Sector News

Gold stocks continue to see substantial weakness in afternoon trading, with the NYSE Arca Gold Bugs Index plunging by 5.1 percent to its lowest intraday level in over three months.

The sell-off by gold stocks comes amid a sharp drop by the price of the precious metal, as gold for June delivery is tumbling $28.30 to $1,825.40 an ounce.

Considerable weakness also remains visible among energy stocks, which are moving lower along with the price of crude oil.

With crude for June delivery edging down $0.15 to $105.56 a barrel, the Philadelphia Oil Service Index is down by 2.1 percent and the NYSE Arca Oil Index is down by 1.6 percent.

Airline, steel and banking stocks are also seeing significant weakness on the day, while housing stocks are rebounding strongly following recent weakness.

Other Markets

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region moved notably lower during trading on Thursday. Japan's Nikkei 225 Index dove by 1.8 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index plummeted by 2.2 percent.

The major European markets also moved to the downside on the day. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 tumbled by 1.6 percent, the French CAC 40 Index slumped by 1 percent and the German DAX Index fell by 0.6 percent.

In the bond market, treasuries are extending the upward move seen over the past few sessions. As a result, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note, which moves opposite of its price, is down by 8.2 basis points at 2.839 percent.

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