Stocks mixed as investors tune in for Powell testimony

US stocks lost steam Thursday as investors braced for more remarks from Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell during his second day of testimony on Capitol Hill.

The S&P 500 was up just 0.1% after retreating from an earlier climb, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 60 points, or roughly 2%. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite advanced 0.9%. In the previous trading session, all three major indexes closed in the red but were little changed.

Stocks attempted to sustain this week’s gains after advances of more than 2% to start the holiday-shortened four-day trading period. Last week, the S&P 500 fell 5.8%, the most since March 2020, and marking the benchmark second second-to-back weekly loss of more than 5%.

US jobless claims remained near five-month high last week in a tentative sign the labor market may be starting to cool. The Labor Department reported Thursday that applications for unemployment insurance totaled 229,000 for the week ended June 18. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg anticipated claims to come in at 226,000.

Elsewhere in economic data, the preliminary S&P Global Composite Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) for June came in at 51.2, the weakest level since January and second-weakest reading for the index since the height of the pandemic in mid-2020 – another sign of possible economic deterioration.

Fed Chair Powell is in the spotlight again Thursday as he delivers remarks on monetary policy and inflation in his second day of testimony before lawmakers.

The US central bank leader on Wednesday told the Senate Banking Committee in prepared comments that the Fed is “strongly committed” to bringing down inflation, slightly toning down language from last week that indicated its fight against inflation is “unconditional.”

Powell also conceded in his testimony that a recession was a “possibility” and acknowledged that a soft landing would be a “very challenging” feat in the Fed’s fight to restore price stability.

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell tests before a Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee hearing on the

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell tests before a Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee hearing on the “Semiannual Monetary Policy Report to the Congress”, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, US, June 22, 2022. REUTERS / Elizabeth Frantz

“The Fed is behind – they’ve been behind for a while,” Claro Advisors’ Ryan Belanger told Yahoo Finance Live on Wednesday. “They’ve got their work cut out for them […] the soft landing speak is somewhat of a myth. “

Earlier this week, strategists at BlackRock warned that a recession appears all but inevitable in the Fed’s path forward, arguing that the current interest rate hiking campaign is likely to stall economic growth without necessarily resolving the inflation issue.

“The Fed isn’t looking for a recession, even though in our view one would be needed if it wanted to drive inflation back down to 2%,” the firm said.

Other Wall Street heavyweights have also ramped up recession talks, with warnings from economists at Citi, Goldman Sachs, and Deutsche Bank this week.

On the move

  • Occidental Petroleum (OXY)‘s stock rose more than 4% at the start of Thursday’s session after Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway snapped up another 9.6 million shares of the oil giant on Wednesday. Berkshire owns about 152.7 million Occidental shares worth roughly $ 8.52 billion after the purchase based on the company price at Wednesday close.

  • Rite Aid (RAD) shares gained as much as 6% after the drugstore chain reported a smaller first-quarter earnings loss than analysts had anticipated. The company posted an adjusted loss of 60 cents per share, coming in below the loss of 66 cents per share Bloomberg consensus estimates had projected. Rite Aid also raised its full-year revenue guidance.

  • Snowflake (SNOW) shares surged nearly 9% after JPMorgan upgraded the stock to Overweight from Neutral, citing the company high standing in a survey of chief information officers. JPMorgan also said it sees potential for upside of up to 30% on the stock.

Alexandra Semenova is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @alexandraandnyc

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