MARKET SNAPSHOT: Stock Market Struggles For Direction As Comey Testimony Gets Under Way

By Mark DeCambre and Sara Sjolin, MarketWatch Features Dow Jones Newswires

Comey hearing, U.K. election and ECB meeting are all on deck Thursday

Continue Reading Below

U.S. stock-index benchmarks on Thursday morning bounced around as investors braced for testimony from former FBI Director James Comey in front of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee.

The ex-Federal Bureau of Investigation boss is part a litany of potentially market-moving events playing out over the next 24 hours. Those include a European Central Bank--which kept its monetary policy unchanged on Thursday--and a U.K. snap election.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 18 points, or less than 0.1%, to 21,192, while the S&P 500 index traded unchanged at 2,431. Meanwhile, the Nasdaq Composite Index touched an intraday record of 6,311.89, but was most recently trading at break-even levels at 6,293.

Check out: A recap of the ECB's Mario Draghi press conference (http://blogs.marketwatch.com/thetell/2017/06/08/mario-draghi-live-blog-ecb-drops-reference-to-potential-for-further-rate-cut/)

(http://blogs.marketwatch.com/thetell/2017/06/08/mario-draghi-live-blog-ecb-drops-reference-to-potential-for-further-rate-cut/)Read:What to watch when James Comey testifies to the Senate on Thursday (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/what-to-watch-when-james-comey-testifies-to-the-senate-on-thursday-2017-06-05)

Continue Reading Below

"Based upon the release of his opening statement, we think we know what Comey is going to say, but we don't know what questions are going to come up and how he might answer them, so there's some potential risk there," said Phil Orlando, chief equity strategist at Federated Investors.

Comey's prepared testimony suggests he was worried President Donald Trump had sought to secure his "loyalty" and wanted him to help "lift the cloud" the investigation into possible Russian interference in the U.S. election was casting. Comey also confirmed the president's assertion that the director had repeatedly assured Trump that the FBI hadn't opened an investigation into him.

Prepared remarks were released late Wednesday, but the Senate committee is expected to ask a number of follow-up questions.

Meanwhile, the ECB, as expected, left interest rates unchanged (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/ecb-leaves-policy-unchanged-drops-reference-to-lower-rates-2017-06-08) Thursday but said it continued to expect interest rates "to remain at present levels for an extended period of time, and well past the horizon" of its asset-buying program, which is set to run at least through December. In previous statements, the ECB had said it expected rates "to remain at present or lower levels for an extended period of time." That alteration is seen as given the central bank scope to nudge rates higher in the future.

During the news conference Draghi described the risk to Europe as "broadly balanced," suggesting growing optimism about the eurozone's economic outlook., but though the language of the ECB's policy statement appeared to crack the door to so-called normalization by the central bank, Draghi tried to avoid such a characterization during the news conference.

Investors also were focused on the U.K. general election, beyond the ECB and Comey.

See:Comey's juicy Trump account leaves some big questions unanswered (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/comeys-juicy-trump-account-leaves-some-big-questions-unanswered-2017-06-07)

Read:Why the ECB can take only 'baby steps' toward ending ultraloose monetary policy (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/draghis-ecb-may-take-baby-steps-toward-ending-ultraloose-monetary-policy-2017-06-06)

In the U.K., voters headed to the polls in an election that turned out to be much more uncertain than anyone had predicted. Opinion polls are still giving Prime Minister Theresa May's Conservative Party the lead, but the big question is whether the party will increase its majority in parliament. Polling stations close at 10 p.m. London time (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/when-is-the-uk-election-and-when-do-we-know-who-won-2017-06-01), or 5 p.m. Eastern, and the first exit polls will be released immediately after.

Read:U.K. election--these are the stocks and sectors to watch once the result is in (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/watch-for-a-shake-up-among-uk-stocks-after-thursdays-election-2017-06-06)

(http://www.marketwatch.com/story/watch-for-a-shake-up-among-uk-stocks-after-thursdays-election-2017-06-06) (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/watch-for-a-shake-up-among-uk-stocks-after-thursdays-election-2017-06-06)Also read:U.K. election: The worst, best and most likely scenarios for stocks world-wide (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/uk-election-the-nightmare-best-case-and-most-likely-scenarios-for-stocks-worldwide-2017-06-01)

The pound traded at a two-week high as voting got under way, buying $1.2943, compared with $1.2960 late Wednesday in New York.

Economic news: A reading on weekly jobless claims dropped by 10,000 to 245,000 (https://www.dol.gov/ui/data.pdf)in the seven days stretching from May 28 to June 3, hanging around the lowest levels in decades (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/us-jobless-claims-drop-10000-to-245000-2017-06-08)and suggesting that the labor market continues to chug along.

Looking ahead, a quarterly survey of services is due at 10 a.m. Eastern.

See:

Stock movers: Shares of Yahoo! Inc.(YHOO) climbed 8% after news late Wednesday that up to 1,000 layoffs are expected at the combined Yahoo and AOL companies set to be bought by Verizon Communications Inc.(VZ).

Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD) gained 1.4% as shares build on recent days' sharp rally (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/amds-stock-extends-surge-fueled-by-tremendous-graphics-cards-demand-2017-06-07) following upbeat comments from Apple Inc. (AAPL) and brokers regarding the chip maker.

Shares of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.(BABA) jumped 11% after the Chinese e-commerce giant said revenues are expected to grow between 45% and 49% in 2018.

Shares of Nordstrom Inc. (JWN) soared following reports that the retailer is exploring taking itself private. Shares were up 16.4% in premarket trade.

Other markets: Stocks in Asia closed mostly higher (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/asian-markets-sit-back-wait-for-global-news-to-pass-2017-06-07), although Japan's Nikkei 225 index bucked the positive trend. The losses in Tokyo came after the yen jumped on reports the Bank of Japan is running simulations of exits from quantitative easing.

European stocks were little changed (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/european-stocks-search-for-firm-footing-with-ecb-uk-election-on-deck-2017-06-08) ahead of the ECB meeting and the U.K. election result.

Oil prices bounced around (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/crude-futures-attempt-to-rebound-from-biggest-drop-in-a-month-2017-06-08), after posting the biggest drop since March in Wednesday's session. That slump followed a report of an unexpected climb in U.S. stockpiles.

Gold tumbled 1.2%, while the dollar was up 0.2% against other major currencies.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

June 08, 2017 10:15 ET (14:15 GMT)