US stocks: Wall Street pauses after sharp rally this week

After falling as much as 5.24% since a record high hit on Nov. 22, the S&P 500 index has recouped nearly all its declines, now trading 1.2% below its all-time peak.

Technology stocks including Apple Inc, Microsoft Corp, Visa Inc and Nvidia Corp continued to rise, but did little to boost the broader tech sector. (File/Reuters)
Technology stocks including Apple Inc, Microsoft Corp, Visa Inc and Nvidia Corp continued to rise, but did little to boost the broader tech sector. (File/Reuters)(Image: REUTERS)

U.S. stock indexes slipped on Thursday after three straight days of gains following positive updates on the Omicron coronavirus variant, with focus now turning towards economic data for clues on the Federal Reserve’s policy decision.

Nine of the 11 major S&P sectors declined in early trading, with economy-sensitive energy, financials and materials shares falling the most.

Technology stocks including Apple Inc, Microsoft Corp, Visa Inc and Nvidia Corp continued to rise, but did little to boost the broader tech sector.

Amazon.com fell 0.5% after Italy’s antitrust watchdog fined the e-commerce giant $1.28 billion for alleged abuse of market dominance.

Wall Street’s main indexes were supported this week by positive updates about COVID-19 vaccines, with the most recent data showing Pfizer and BioNTech’s shot offered some protection against the new Omicron variant.

“We’re looking at a little bit of a pullback here, it’s more based on profit-taking after several days of solid gains. And the Pfizer announcement the other day came as a big relief for investors,” said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Spartan Capital Securities in New York.

Markets have seesawed since late November when the World Health Organization categorized the latest variant as that ‘of concern’, with investors worried Omicron could upend a global recovery at a time when the Fed has signaled a speedier tapering of monetary stimulus to tackle surging inflation.

After falling as much as 5.24% since a record high hit on Nov. 22, the S&P 500 index has recouped nearly all its declines, now trading 1.2% below its all-time peak.

CVS Health Corp rose 2.6%, boosting S&P 500 healthcare stocks, after the drugstore operator raised its 2021 profit forecast.

All eyes are now on consumer prices index data due on Friday. A hotter-than-expected reading could strengthen the case for aggressive policy tightening ahead of the U.S. central bank’s meeting next week.

The Fed will raise rates in the third quarter of next year, earlier than expected a month ago, according to economists in a Reuters poll who mostly said the risk was that a hike comes even sooner.

At 10:00 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 115.63 points, or 0.32%, at 35,639.12, the S&P 500 was down 15.09 points, or 0.32%, at 4,686.12, and the Nasdaq Composite was down 67.42 points, or 0.43%, at 15,719.56.

GameStop Corp fell 5.5% after the video game retailer said it was issued a subpoena by the U.S. securities regulator back in August for documents on an investigation into its share trading activity.

Data showed initial claims for state unemployment benefits tumbled 43,000 to 184,000, dropping to the lowest level in more than 52 years last week as labor market conditions continued to tighten amid an acute shortage of workers.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers for a 2.84-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and for a 2.12-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded nine new 52-week highs and one new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 20 new highs and 23 new lows.

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