U.S. stocks closed Thursday’s session flat as the Dow Jones Industrial Average finished the day in negative territory for the sixth straight session, the longest streak of 2014.
Investors continued to weigh concerns about how Europe's weak economy is affecting global growth, against mixed U.S. economic data that showed better-than-expected jobless claims. The report was a sharp contrast to Wednesday’s trio of data that revealed sluggish retail sales last month, along with a mixed Producer Price Index and a report showing slower-than-expected manufacturing growth in the New York region.
“It’s clear evidence that the economy is hitting a soft patch right now due to the uncertainties in the global economy," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Rockwell Global Capital. “But a soft patch doesn’t necessarily mean we’re going to collapse in economic activity.”
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 24.50 points, or 0.15 percent, to close at 16,117.24; the S&P 500 Index ticked up 0.27 points, or 0.01 percent, to end at 1,862.76; the Nasdaq Composite edged up 2.07 points, or 0.05 percent, to finish at 4,217.39.
Ahead on Friday’s economic calendar, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen is scheduled to speak on the U.S. economy at 8:30 a.m. EST, and investors will listen closely for any clues for changes to the central bank’s current monetary policy.
The Commerce Department is scheduled to release housing starts data for September ahead of the opening bell, and the University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment index for October is issued at 9:55 a.m. Options contracts, which allow a holder to buy or sell an underlying security at a given price, expire on Friday, meaning possibly more volatility in the financial markets.
Analysts previously told International Business Times that Wall Street would continue to see volatility in the coming weeks after the Dow fell 272 points on Oct. 7, only to soar 275 points the following session. The Dow then plummeted 334 points on Oct. 9. The tumultuous selling continued this week after the Dow plunged over 450 points on Wednesday, only to reverse slightly. Then the Dow tumbled over 200 points early Thursday, yet briefly turned positive in mid-day trading.
Economists are eyeing the impact of a stronger U.S. dollar on multinational corporations this earnings season. Despite mixed U.S. data, economists are optimistic so far about how companies are forecasting results for the fourth-quarter, traditionally the biggest for consumer spending.
“Earnings will reflect what happened last quarter, but if you look at most of the companies, they have not been cutting back their forecasts,” Cardillo added. “Guidance is remaining somewhat healthy and that’s a good indication that earnings growth will continue.”