Saturday, April 20, 2024

Stocks open mixed as market heads for a 5th quarterly gain

by Associated Press

Stocks are off to a mixed start on Wall Street as traders wait for the latest U.S. monthly jobs report due out Friday. The S&P 500 was little changed in the early going Wednesday. The benchmark index is on track to close out its fifth straight winning quarter after emerging from a steep drop in early 2020 at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s the longest winning streak for the index since late 2017. European markets were lower and Asian markets closed mixed. Crude oil prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 1.45%.

Shares are mixed in Europe and Asia after the release of data showing Asian factory activity slowed this month as virus outbreaks disrupted shipping at some Chinese ports.

Markets advanced in Shanghai and Sydney but slipped in Paris, London and Tokyo. U.S. futures also were lower.

Japan, South Korea, and China all released data that “erred on the side of slightly disappointing,” Jeffrey Halley of OANDA said in a commentary, adding that “it looks like softening demand from key export markets, exacerbated by chip shortages and logistic logjams, are muting orders across many sectors.”

Japan’s industrial output fell 5.9% in June from the month before while South Korean production fell 0.7%.

A key measure of Chinese factory activity, the monthly purchasing managers index, declined to 50.9 from May’s 51.0 on a 100-point scale where numbers above 50 show activity increasing. Measures of new export orders, production and factory gate prices declined.

Pandemic precautions due to outbreaks of coronavirus at some ports in southern China have been disrupting shipping, analysts say.

Germany’s DAX declined 0.8% to 15,565.10 while the CAC 40 in Paris lost 0.9% to 6,511.48. In Britain, the FTSE 100 gave up 0.8% to 7,033.60. The future for the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 0.3% while that for the S&P 500 fell more than 0.1%.

In Asian trading, Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 index edged 0.1% lower to 28,791.53. The Kospi in Seoul gained 0.4% to 3,296.68 and the Shanghai Composite index added 0.5% to 3,591.20. Sydney’s S&P/ASX 200 climbed 0.2% to 7,313.00.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index fell 0.6% to 28,827.95. Shares rose in India and and Taiwan.

The biggest data release this week will be Friday’s U.S. jobs report for June. Economists expect it to show American employers created 675,000 more jobs than they cut, with the unemployment rate falling to 5.7%.

Job growth has been choppy recently, with gains falling disappointingly short of economists’ expectations in recent months. That’s key because the Fed is likely to keep up its support for the economy through low interest rates as long as the job market looks like it needs help.

Pending Friday’s update, markets were listless Tuesday.

The S&P 500 inched up less than 0.1% to 4,291.80, adding to its all-time high set a day earlier. More stocks fell than rose within the index, but gains for tech companies made up for weakness for banks and utilities.

The Dow industrials also edged less than 0.1% higher, to 34,292.29. The Nasdaq composite added 0.2% to 14,528.33.

Stocks have set their recent records on optimism that the economy is strengthening and that the Federal Reserve will keep interest rates low for a while longer.

A report released Tuesday showed a measure of confidence among U.S. consumers is continuing to rise, beating economists’ expectations for a slight decline. That’s key for an economy made up mostly of spending by consumers.

A separate report showed that home prices across the country rose again in April, continuing their blistering pace.

With one day left in June, the market is getting ready to close out a strong first half of the year. The S&P 500 is on track for a gain of 14.3%, more than double its average for a full year, going back to the start of the millennium.

Major banks announced plans to return billions of dollars to their shareholders through dividend increases and stock buybacks after passing the Federal Reserve’s most recent “stress tests.”

The central bank has stuck by its position that high inflation is likely to be only temporary. That would allow it to keep interest rates low for longer than it otherwise would.

Long-term bond yields have leveled out after jumping earlier in the year in part because of inflation concerns. The yield on the 10-year Treasury slipped to 1.46%.

In other trading, U.S. benchmark crude oil shed 10 cents to $72.88 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It gained 7 cents to $72.98 per barrel on Tuesday. Brent crude, the international standard, gave up 28 cents to $74.00 per barrel.

The U.S. dollar was trading at 110.48 Japanese yen, down from 110.52 yen. The euro fell $1.1891 from $1.1898.

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