Stocks Finish Lackluster Session Modestly Lower – U.S. Commentary

Following the lackluster performance seen in the previous session, stocks continued to experience choppy trading on Thursday. The major averages spent the day bouncing back and forth across the unchanged line before closing modestly lower.

The Dow fell 76.62 points or 0.3 percent to 25,656.98, the Nasdaq edged down 10.64 points or 0.1 percent to 7,878.46 and the S&P 500 dipped 4.84 points or 0.2 percent to 2,856.98.

The choppy trading on Wall Street came as traders seemed reluctant to make significant moves amid renewed concerns after the U.S. imposed tariffs on $16 billion worth of Chinese goods, leading to a tit-for-tat retaliation by the Asian nation.

After the U.S. imposed an additional 25 percent in duties on Chinese imports ranging from motorcycles to steam turbines and railway cars, China’s Ministry of Commerce said it would lodge a complaint against the measure under the World Trade Organization’s dispute settlement mechanism.

In U.S. economic news, a report released by the Labor Department showed a modest decrease in first-time claims for U.S. unemployment benefits in the week ended August 18th.

The report said initial jobless claims edged down to 210,000, a decrease of 2,000 from the previous week’s unrevised level of 212,000. Economists had expected jobless claims to inch up to 215,000.

Meanwhile, the Commerce Department released a separate report showing an unexpected decrease in new home sales in the month of July.

The report said new home sales dropped by 1.7 percent to an annual rate of 627,000 in July after tumbling by 2.4 percent to a revised rate of 638,000 in June. Economists had expected new home sales to climb by 2.2 percent.

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

Gold stocks saw considerable weakness, however, with the NYSE Arca Gold Bugs Index tumbling by 3 percent on the day.

The weakness among gold stocks came amid a decrease by the price of the precious metal, as gold for December delivery slumped $9.30 to $1,194 an ounce.

Significant weakness was also visible among steel stocks, as reflected by the 2.5 percent drop by the NYSE Arca Steel Index.

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region turned in a mixed performance during trading on Thursday. Japan’s Nikkei 225 Index crept up by 0.2 percent, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index dropped by 0.5 percent.

Meanwhile, the major European markets all moved to the downside on the day. While the French CAC 40 Index closed just below the unchanged line, the U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index and the German DAX Index both dipped by 0.2 percent.

In the bond market, treasuries showed a lack of direction before ending the session roughly flat. As a result, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note, which moves opposite of its price, edged down by less than a basis point to 2.821 percent.

Trading on Friday may be impacted by reaction to the Commerce Department’s report on durable goods orders as well as any significant comments out of the economic symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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