MARKET SNAPSHOT: Stock Market Struggles For Direction In Volatile Session

By Wallace Witkowski, MarketWatch , Ryan Vlastelica Features Dow Jones Newswires

Jobless claims rise less than expected in latest week

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U.S. stocks switched between small gains and losses on Thursday during a seasonally low-volume period prone to swings, as investors focus on a symposium of central bankers in Jackson Hole, Wyo.

The market had received a slight boost in afternoon trade after House Speaker Paul Ryan expressed confidence in passing tax reform this year and raising the debt ceiling.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 11 points, or less than 0.1%, at 21,801, with shares of Cisco Systems Inc.(CSCO) leading advancers and shares of Wal-Mart Stores Inc.(WMT) the largest decliner.

The S&P 500 was down 3 points at 2,440, with six out of the 11 primary S&P 500 sectors moving lower, with consumer staples down 1% and telecom off 0.2%.

The Nasdaq Composite Index lost 11 points, or 0.2%, to 6,267.

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During a CNBC interview a little after 1 p.m. Eastern, Speaker Ryan said Republicans are "eye to eye" with President Donald Trump regarding policy. The statement comes after the president late Tuesday threatened to close down the federal government if he wasn't able to secure the estimated $1.6 billion in funding from Congress to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico.

With stocks experiencing their lightest trading volumes of the year, the market is very easy to influence, said Quincy Krosby, chief market strategist, at Prudential Financial, in an interview.

"Ryan wasn't just positive but he provided more details than we have had so far," Krosby said. "In a pragmatic manner, he laid out what congress is able to do, and that was helpful. That's something the market has been looking for."

Stocks had their lightest volume day of the year on Wednesday (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/us-stocks-trade-at-lightest-volume-of-year-on-wednesday-2017-08-23), with about 5 billion shares traded, well below the year-to-date average of 6.54 billion. Currently, 1.64 billion shares have traded on the New York Stock Exchange and 953 million have changed hands on the Nasdaq, with both on track to come in under the already light average daily volumes for August.

The latest economic data also painted a mixed picture of economic conditions. Jobless claims rose by 2,000 in the latest week, a smaller increase than expected. Separately, a read on new-home sales came in at 571,000, below the 608,000 that had been expected, while mortgage rates fell to their lowest level of the year (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/mortgage-rates-plunge-to-2017-low-2017-08-24).

The meeting of central bankers is likely to be the primary driver of trading, even though such key speakers as Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen won't appear until Friday.

"You can't underestimate the importance of Jackson Hole, and this year is especially interesting," said Brian Battle, director of trading at Performance Trust Capital Partners. "Yellen's commentary will be closely watched, because investors want to know both if the Fed will be raising rates, and also the timing and the magnitude of the Fed unwinding its portfolio."

For the week, the Dow is on pace to gain 0.6%, the S&P 500 is set to add 0.6%, while the Nasdaq Composite is on track to rise 0.8%, a move that would end a four-week string of declines for the technology-heavy index.

Words from Wyoming: The program for the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank's symposium, titled "Fostering a Dynamic Global Economy," is set for release (https://www.kansascityfed.org/publications/research/escp) at 8 p.m. Eastern Time. The meeting runs through Saturday.

European Central Bank President Mario Draghi will be on the lineup with Yellen on Friday, and investors will watch for any hints on the path for monetary policy from both central bank chiefs.

See:Here's what investors will be watching when Draghi, Yellen speak at Jackson Hole (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/heres-what-investors-will-be-watching-when-draghi-yellen-speak-at-jackson-hole-2017-08-22)

Stock movers:Tiffany & Co.(TIF) posted second-quarter earnings of 92 cents a share (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/tiffany-co-shares-rise-after-earnings-revenue-beat-2017-08-24), beating expectations. Shares fell 2.3%.

Signet shares (SIG) jumped 18% after the jewelry retailer's quarterly earnings and sales beat expectations (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/signet-jewelers-shares-spike-after-earnings-beat-e-commerce-acquisition-2017-08-24).

Burlington Stores(BURL) climbed 3% after the discount store chain posted better-than-expected second-quarter results (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/burlington-stores-stock-surges-8-premarket-on-better-than-expected-earnings-2017-08-24) and raised its outlook for the full year.

Sears(SHLD) posted a narrower quarterly loss of $2.34 a share (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/sears-loss-tops-views-to-close-28-kmart-stores-2017-08-24) and said it would close 28 Kmart stores this year. Shares rose 1.1%.

J.M. Smucker Co. shares(SJM) fell 9.1% as the foods producer lowered its full-year outlook and its first-quarter earnings missed estimates (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/jm-smucker-shares-fall-4-premarket-after-earnings-miss-2017-08-24). Hormel Foods Corp.'s(HRL) stock dropped 5.4% after the Spam maker cut its full-year earnings forecast.

Dollar Tree Inc.(DLTR) shares rallied 6.6% after the discount retailer reported better-than-expected earnings for the quarter (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/dollar-tree-shares-jump-9-premarket-on-better-than-expected-earnings-2017-08-24).

PVH Corp. (PVH) shares rose 5.6% after the Calvin Klein parent topped Wall Street estimates for the quarter and raised its outlook (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/calvin-klein-parent-pvh-corp-shares-rise-on-earnings-beat-raised-guidance-2017-08-23).

The food companies were the two biggest percentage decliners among S&P 500 components, and they pressured the consumer staples space.

U.S.-listed shares of CRH PLC(CRG.DB) were up 4% after the Irish building materials company agreed to sell its Americas distribution business (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/crh-to-sell-us-distribution-unit-in-26b-deal-2017-08-24) to Beacon Roofing Supply(BECN). Beacon shares climbed 10%.

A consortium that includes Western Digital Corp.(WDC) will offer 1.9 trillion yen ($17 billion) to purchase Toshiba Corp.'s(6502.TO) memory chip business, sources told Reuters on Thursday. (https://finance.yahoo.com/news/western-digital-group-offer-1-091619106.html)

(https://finance.yahoo.com/news/western-digital-group-offer-1-091619106.html)Invesco Ltd. is reportedly closing in on a $1 billion deal (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/invesco-closes-in-on-1-billion-deal-to-buy-guggenheims-etf-business-2017-08-24) for Guggenheim Partners's ETF business. Shares of Invesco fell 0.8%.

Other markets:In Asian equities, (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/hong-kong-leads-slight-asian-market-gains-2017-08-23) Hong Kong shares finished higher while Japan's Nikkei lost ground. European equities traded modestly higher (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/european-stocks-post-cautious-gains-as-jackson-hole-day-arrives-2017-08-24).

The ICE Dollar Index was up less than 0.1% at 93.20. A single bitcoin was up 1.5% to $4,252.27 after an upgrade to increase transaction sizes was implemented.

Oil prices (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/oil-prices-ease-with-caution-still-in-place-even-as-us-stockpiles-decline-2017-08-24) dropped 2.3%, while gold prices (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/gold-slips-on-stronger-dollar-ahead-of-jackson-hole-central-bank-meet-up-2017-08-24) slipped 0.2% to settle at $1,292 an ounce.

--Carla Mozee in London contributed to this article.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

August 24, 2017 14:32 ET (18:32 GMT)