Stocks showed a lack of direction over the course of the trading day on Wednesday before eventually ending the session little changed. Despite the choppy trading, the tech-heavy Nasdaq inched up to a new record closing high.
The major averages finished the day on opposite sides of the unchanged line. While the Nasdaq crept up 18.47 points or 0.1 percent to 14,271.73, the Dow slipped 71.34 points or 0.2 percent to 33,874.24 and the S&P 500 edged down 4.60 points or 0.1 percent to 4,241.84.
The lackluster performance on Wall Street came as traders seemed reluctant to make significant moves amid uncertainty about the near-term outlook for the markets following recent volatility.
The strong advance seen early this week came after stocks came under pressure last week, dragging the Dow down to its lowest closing level in well over two months.
The rebound has lifted the Nasdaq to new record highs, while the S&P 500 is just shy of the record intraday high set last Tuesday.
Comments from Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell have eased some of the concerns about the outlook for monetary policy that weighed on the markets last week.
Powell has downplayed the risk of inflation and stressed the central bank would not raise rates “preemptively,” but traders know the Fed will eventually start tapering its asset purchases.
In U.S. economic news, a report released by the Commerce Department unexpectedly showed another steep drop in new home sales in the U.S. in the month of May.
The Commerce Department said new home sales tumbled by 5.9 percent to an annual rate of 769,000 in May after plunging by 7.8 percent to a downwardly revised rate of 817,000 in April.
The continued decrease surprised economists, who had expected new home sales to climb 0.8 percent to a rate of 870,000 from the 863,000 originally reported for the previous month.
Most of the major sectors ended the day showing only modest moves, contributing to the lackluster close by the broader markets.
Utilities stocks showed a notable move to the downside, however, with the Dow Jones Utility Average falling by 1.2 percent to its lowest closing level in well over two months.
Gold and chemical stocks also saw some weakness on the day, while strength was visible among brokerage and natural gas stocks.
In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region turned in a mixed performance during trading on Wednesday. Japan’s Nikkei 225 Index closed just below the unchanged line while Hong Kong’s hang Seng Index jumped by 1.8 percent.
Meanwhile, the major European markets all moved to the downside on the day. While the German DAX Index slumped by 1.2 percent, the French CAC 40 Index slid by 0.9 percent and the U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index slipped by 0.2 percent.
In the bond market, treasuries closed modestly lower after showing a lack of direction in early trading. As a result, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note, which moves opposite of its price, inched up by 1.5 basis points to 1.487 percent.
Trading on Thursday may be impacted by reaction to the latest U.S. economic data, including reports on initial jobless claims and durable goods orders.
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