Leading the major indexes lower were the FANMAG stocks, Facebook (ticker: FB), Apple (AAPL), Netflix (NFLX), Microsoft (MSFT), Amazon.com (AMZN), and Google parent Alphabet (GOOGL). They were all down, with Netflix declining 1%. These stocks weigh heavily on the S&P 500 and Nasdaq because they have unusually large market capitalizations.
Meanwhile, many other stocks were faring decently. More than 50% of S&P 500 stocks were in the green, according to FactSet data.
Initial jobless claims fell to 310,000 in the latest week, beating forecasts for 335,000. It was the lowest reading since before the pandemic-driven lockdowns were put in place in early 2020. Continuing claims fell to 2.78 million from 2.8 million, another pandemic-era low. The strong data were a welcome sight for investors, as the August jobs report showed a slower addition of jobs in the U.S. than expected.
Still, much of the strength in this employment data could be a result of employers holding onto employees amid a labor shortage, not entirely because they are aggressively adding jobs. “Bottom line, we know the challenge for the labor market is the supply of workers and thus follows that there has been a big decline in the level of firings,” writes Peter Boockvar, chief investment officer at Bleakley Advisory Group.
Investor attention is also focused on the future of monetary policy—namely, Covid-19 pandemic-era programs of monthly asset purchases from the U.S. Federal Reserve and other central banks, which add liquidity to markets.
On Thursday, the European Central Bank said it would slow down the pace of the bond-buying program it launched in March 2020 to counter the coronavirus pandemic’s effects, but confirmed its long-running stance that monetary policy would remain on the dovish side for months to come.
Going forward, “Lagarde’s efforts to disconnect bond purchases from rate lift-off will be important in reassuring investors that the central bank isn’t on the verge of making a repeat of the 2011 policy mistake,” writes Seema Shah, chief strategist at Principal Global Investors.
Analysts also highlighted uncertainty over whether Fed Chair Jerome Powell will be reappointed, and concerns about the U.S. debt ceiling after Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen urged Congress to suspend or raise the debt limit.
Shares in Chinese media and gaming companies like Tencent and NetEase, listed in Hong Kong, fell after reports that regulators summoned groups in the sector to ensure they had implemented new rules and would respect competition laws. Last month China banned people under 18 years old from playing videogames for more than three hours each week.
Japanese stocks ended their longest winning streak since November. Investor sentiment in Tokyo has been buoyed by the resignation of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, which raises the prospect of a new leader who will usher in fresh stimulus measures.
In the commodity space, natural-gas futures traded in New York are changing hands at the highest prices in seven years amid expectations for a cold winter.
T-Mobile US (TMUS) was down 1.3% following reports of a block trade of 12.5 million shares of the company. Shares of T-Mobile had fallen 0.9% so far this year.
Devon Energy (DVN) rose 0.5% even after getting cut to Buy from Conviction Buy at Goldman Sachs. Analyst Neil Mehta cited the market’s recognition of the company’s dividend strategy for the downgrade.
Cisco Systems (CSCO) rose 0.3% even after getting downgraded to Equal Weight from Overweight at Morgan Stanley. Analyst Meta Marshall cited Cisco’s relative valuation for the cut.
BioMarin Pharmaceutical (BMRN) rose 2.6% after getting raised to Buy from Hold at Stifel. Analyst Paul Matteis cited the stock’s underperformance, as well as the potential approval of one of its drugs.
Macy’s (M) has gained 0.7% after getting upgraded to Outperform from Market Perform at Cowen. “We upgrade M to Outperform as we forecast continued momentum from: more agile inventory and pricing management, data-centric loyalty and personalization actions, product innovation, and store-base reinvention on closures, digital integration + real estate monetization,” Cowen analyst Oliver Chen writes.
Lululemon Athletica (LULU) rose 11.2% after reporting better-than-expected earnings. The athleisure-wear company reported a profit of $1.65, beating forecasts for $1.19, on sales of $1.5 billion, ahead of forecasts for $1.33 billion. It also raised its full-year guidance.
—Pierre Briançon contributed to this article.