Stocks Wobble as Traders Weigh Outlook

Stocks are wobbling in morning trading on Wall Street Thursday as investors consider the outlook for rising interest rates and inflation. 

The S&P 500 was moving between gains and losses in the early going and was near breakeven after the first hour of trading, at 10:30 a.m. Eastern. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 73 points, or 0.2%, to 36,333 and the Nasdaq was also little changed.

Technology stocks, which have a big influence on the S&P 500 because of their huge size, were lower. IBM was down 2.3%. 

Retailers and health care stocks also fell. Amazon.com lost 1% and Pfizer gave up 1.6%.

Banks made some of the biggest gains as bond yields continued to rise a day after the Federal Reserve indicated it was ready to raise interest rates to fight off inflation. The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 1.73% from 1.70% late Wednesday. Citigroup gained 1.5%. Higher bond yields allow banks to charge more lucrative interest on loans.

U.S. crude oil prices rose 2.1% and helped send energy stocks higher. ConocoPhillips rose 2.2%.

Investors have been closely monitoring rising inflation’s impact on consumers and businesses. They have also been closely watching the Fed’s plans to dial back its ultra-low interest rate policies. Minutes from the central bank’s meeting in December showed that policymakers expressed concerns that inflation, which has surged to four-decade highs, was spreading into more areas of the economy and would last longer than they previously expected. 

The central bank has already said it will accelerate the reduction of its bond purchases, which have helped keep interest rates low. Investors are watching for the impact from that pullback and gauging how quickly and how often the central bank will raise its benchmark interest rate.

Wall Street has also been weighing several economic reports this week.

On Thursday, The Institute for Supply Management reported that growth in the U.S. service industry, where most Americans work, pulled back in December after expanding at a record pace the previous two months.

The Labor Department reported that the number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits rose last week but remained at historically low levels, suggesting that the job market remains strong. The agency will release its monthly jobs report on Friday.

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