U.S. equity markets wavered as investors waded through a second day of Fed speakers and as investors await Friday’s October jobs report.
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The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 2 points, or 0.02% to 17846. The S&P 500 shed 2 points, or 0.11% to 2100, while the Nasdaq Composite declined 14 points, or 0.29% to 5127.
The financial and energy sectors duked it out for the Dow’s direction: Financials were the biggest gainer as names like JPMorgan (NYSE:JPM) helped lead the Dow’s gainers, while the energy sector saw the most substantial losses on the session. Chevron (NYSE:CVX), and Exxon (NYSE:XOM) helped limit the index’s gains.
Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) was a bright spot for the market on Thursday as the social giant became the S&P 500’s sixth most valuable company.
The social-media giant’s shares vaulted to a new record high at the opening bell, giving it a market capitalization of more than $300 billion – for context, that’s bigger than Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN), General Electric (NYSE:GE), and Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC).
The lurch higher came after much better-than-expected quarterly results. The company said mobile ads accounted for about 78% of its total ad revenue during the quarter -- that was up 66% from the same period a year prior. Monthly active users were up 23% year over year, while daily active users jumped 27% year over year.
The Nasdaq Biotechnology Index shed as much as 2.6%, weighing on the broader health-care sector, which was one of the biggest decliners on the session. Celegne Corporation (NASDAQ:CELG) shares dropped more than 6% after the company posted its smallest revenue growth in five quarters as sales of one of its cancer-treatment drugs slowed.
Valeant Pharmaceuticals (NYSE:VRX) also came under renewed selling pressure, plunging nearly 20% on the session after a Senate panel on Wednesday said it was launching an investigation into drug pricing. The panel wants documents from Valeant and Turing Pharmaceuticals – two firms under intense scrutiny recently for their pricing structures.
Central banks were also a focus for the Street a day after Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen left wide open the door to a December rate hike, and New York Fed President William Dudley agreed. Her remarks came during testimony on Capitol Hill about financial-system oversight, and she said no decision on rates has yet been made, and central bankers will continue to monitor every piece of economic data between now and the FOMC’s December meeting.
“The good news for the FOMC is that the combination of; a) hawkish talk by the leadership; b) the lowered bars for future monthly job growth, the economy, and inflation; and c) rising stock prices, has caused the probability of a December rate hike to rise to 60%, which was clearly the game plan that emerged from the October FOMC meeting to enable the Committee to keep their options open in December,” Jack Mullen, AgirBank director of derivatives and market strategy said in a note.
Fed speakers filled the calendar on Thursday. Dudley is set to give opening remarks at an event hosted by the New York Fed on reforming culture and behavior in the financial services industry, while Fed Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer was prepared to participate in a discussion on the topic in the 9:00 hour. Later in the day, Chicago Fed President Charles Evans will give the opening remarks at an international banking conference, and Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart will speak before the Joint Central Bank Conference in Switzerland.
In recent action, the yield on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury bond rose 0.015 percentage point to 2.245%.
Overseas, the Bank of England kept its benchmark interest rate unchanged at 0.5% -- a level at which it’s been since 2009.
In the meantime, while many on Wall Street anxiously await Friday’s all-important non-farm payrolls report, they were set to digest the latest weekly jobless claims data. The number of Americans filing for first-time unemployment benefits rose last week to 276,000 from an unrevised 260,00 the week prior. Wall Street expected a smaller rise to 262,000 claims for the week.
On the earnings front, investors will closely eye reports from Disney (NYSE:DIS), DreamWorks (NYSE:DWA), Kraft Heinz (NYSE:KHC), News Coproration (NYSE:NWSA), Shake Shack (NYSE:SHAK), and Weight Watchers (NYSE:WTW) after the closing bell. Shares of Weight Watchers surged last month after media mogul Oprah Winfrey announced she had taken a 10% stake in the company. Investors will be watching to see how Winfrey’s effort to attach her personal brand to the company’s will help the struggling firm.
Elsewhere in the market, global oil prices were lower after a volatile two days of trading thanks to continuing supply concerns in Brazil and Libya. U.S. crude prices were down 2.42% to $45.20 a barrel, while Brent, the international benchmark, declined 1.24% to $47.98 a barrel.
Metal prices were also lower as gold fell 0.19% to $1,104 a troy ounce. Silver declined 0.50% to $15.50 an ounce, while copper slid 2.85% to $2.25 a pound.