Nasdaq Firmly Positive In Mid-Day Trading, Dow & S&P 500 Nearly Flat

After showing a lack of direction early in the session, stocks continue to turn in a lackluster performance in mid-day trading on Thursday. While the tech-heavy Nasdaq has managed to remain positive, the Dow and the S&P 500 have bouncing back and forth across the unchanged line.

Currently, the major averages are turning in a mixed performance. The Dow is down 16.47 points or 0.1 percent at 31,171.91, but the Nasdaq is up 64.72 points or 0.5 percent at 13,521.97 and the S&P 500 is up 1.33 points or less than a tenth of a percent at 3,853.18.

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

Some analysts have expressed concerns about the markets becoming overbought, but traders seem wary of missing out on further upside.

Optimism about ramped up efforts to combat the coronavirus under new President Joe Biden have also helped to prop up the markets.

Biden has revealed new details of his plan to tackle the pandemic, which includes providing more state and local funding to accelerate the vaccine rollout and using the Defense Production Act to increase production of personal protective equipment.

Traders also remain optimistic about more fiscal stimulus under Biden, who has called for a new $1.9 trillion relief package.

In U.S. economic news, the Labor Department released a report showing a pullback in initial jobless claims in the week ended January 16th.

The report said initial jobless claims fell to 900,000, a decrease of 26,000 from the previous week’s revised level of 926,000.

Economists had expected jobless claims to drop to 910,000 from the 965,000 originally reported for the previous week.

Even with the downward revision, the number of claims in the previous week represented the most since reaching 1.011 million in the week ended August 22nd.

The Commerce Department also released a report showing new residential construction in the U.S. jumped by much more than expected in the month of December.

The reports paint a more positive picture of the economy, but traders may be wary that the data could ease the pressure on lawmakers to approve additional stimulus.

Sector News

Airline stocks have shown a substantial move to the downside on the day, dragging the NYSE Arca Airline Index down by 3.1 percent.

United Airlines (UAL) has helped lead the sector lower after reporting a wider than expected fourth quarter loss on revenues that missed expectations.

Considerable weakness is also visible among energy stocks, which are moving lower amid a modest drop by the price of crude oil. Crude for March delivery is slipping $0.36 to $52.95 a barrel.

Reflecting the weakness in the energy sector, the Philadelphia Oil Service Index is down by 2.8 percent and the NYSE Arca Oil Index is down by 2.4 percent.

Gold stocks are also seeing significant weakness amid a decrease by the price of the precious metal, while banking, transportation and steel socks have also come under pressure.

On the other hand, computer hardware stocks have shown a strong move to the upside on the day, driving the NYSE Arca Computer Hardware Index up by 1.7 percent to a record intraday high.

Other Markets

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region moved mostly higher during trading on Thursday. Japan’s Nikkei 225 Index climbed by 0.8 percent, while China’s Shanghai Composite Index surged up by 1.1 percent.

Meanwhile, the major European markets moved to the downside over the course of the session. While the German DAX Index edged down by 0.1 percent, the U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index fell by 0.4 percent and the French CAC 40 Index slid by 0.7 percent.

In the bond market, treasuries are seeing modest weakness after closing nearly flat for two straight days. As a result, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note, which moves opposite of its price, is up by 1.2 basis points at 1.102 percent.

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