U.S. stocks struggled Thursday after the yield curve inverted again -- its third such move in the last seven trading sessions -- and a measure of manufacturing indicated contraction for the first time in a decade.
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The yield, or interest rate, on the 10-year Treasury bond fell below the 2-year note yield once again. This also happened briefly on Wednesday after the Fed minutes were released, and briefly last week as well when it precipitated an 800-point plunge in the Dow Jones Industrial Average.
A yield curve inversion is interpreted by many fixed-income investors as a signal of recession.
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Wall Street also appeared concerned about the not-exactly-dovish comments by Kansas City Fed President, Esther George, who told FOX Business on Wednesday that the U.S. economy is “doing well,” though she's not “blind” to the risk around it.
“I think we have to be very vigilant,” she told Edward Lawrence at the Federal Reserve’s annual conference. “What I'm watching for is, since the consumer is essentially leading this economy right now, can it continue to do so? And what could get in the way of that.”
George forecast 2 percent growth for this year but believes business investments and exports are “holding back” that segment of the economy.
Investors hope to hear more about interest rate strategy on Friday when Fed Chair Jerome Powell gives an address to the gathering of central bankers at Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
The minutes from the policymaker's July meeting, which were released Wednesday, showed a split over whether to cut rates.
Meanwhile, IHS Markit on Thursday said its Flash Purchasing Managers' Index for manufacturing fell to 49.9 earlier this month. A reading under 50 indicates contraction. Its the first time the sector has seen that since September 2009.
The Dow turned positive thanks to Boeing, which extended its gains after Reuters reported that the company planned to boost production of its 737 jets to 52 per month in February if the 737 MAX gets approval to fly in the fourth quarter.
Shares of Overstock.com shares surged on CEO Patrick Byrne’s resignation.
Nordstrom rose after the big retailer reported a better-than-expected quarterly profit by reducing costs and cutting down on inventory.
In economic news on Thursday, initial claims for state unemployment benefits fell by a more-than-expected 12,000 to a seasonally adjusted 209,000 last week.
Global growth concerns remain on investor's minds as eurozone business growth expectations fell to their weakest in more than six years on trade war fears.
In an appeal to Washington on Thursday, China said to "meet each other halfway" and settle a trade war instead of going ahead with planned tariff hikes Beijing warned will trigger retaliation.
Exporters are preparing for a Sept. 1 increase in U.S. duties in a fight over trade and technology. Those are due to go ahead on more than $100 billion of Chinese goods despite the Trump administration's decision to postpone some other planned increases to mid-December.
In Europe, the major markets closed lower. London's FTSE 100 lost 1 percent, Frankfurt's DAX slipped 0.5 percent and France's CAC dropped 0.9 percent.
In Asia, the major markets closed mixed. China's Shanghai Composite edged up 0.1 percent, Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 0.9 percent and Tokyo's Nikkei was 0.1 percent higher.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.