By Caitlin Ostroff
U.S. stocks pared gains Thursday as weekly jobless claims held steady, extending Wednesday's rebound after a recent technology-led sell-off.
The S&P 500 ticked up less than 0.1%, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite Index gained 0.5%. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was roughly flat, while the pan-continental Stoxx Europe 600 declined 0.8%.
Earlier, the so-called FAANG stocks were up, with Amazon.com Inc. and Apple Inc. up 1.7% and 1.3%, continuing gains by the big tech stocks.
Volatility in these big technology stocks has dominated markets in recent days. Tech shares rose broadly Wednesday following a three-session selloff that pushed the Nasdaq Composite Index into correction territory. Despite recent moves lower, the Nasdaq has gained more than 20% this year.
The recent slide in tech stocks has raised worries that the market, which had risen so sharply over the summer, could be set for a more turbulent period.
"We could see volatility continue just because there are so many factors if you think about the lack of progress on fiscal stimulus in the U.S. and the [Covid-19] case counts," said Wei Li, head of iShares EMEA investment strategy at BlackRock. "It's just hard to think we can put this to bed."
On Thursday, the government said about 884,000 Americans applied for unemployment benefits in the week ended Sept. 5, unchanged from the prior week. The labor market has gradually improved after the coronavirus pandemic struck this spring but new jobless claims remain at historically high levels.
Congress remains deadlocked over a fresh stimulus package. On Wednesday, Senate Republicans said they would support a scaled-back $300 billion version of their earlier $1 trillion stimulus plan, including jobless aid, liability protections for businesses and school funding. Democrats oppose the bill, and it isn't expected to clear its first procedural hurdle in the Senate on Thursday.
In early trading, shares in GameStop fell 12% after the retailer reported fiscal second-quarter results that missed Wall Street estimates. Shares in AstraZeneca rose 1% after the company's chief executive said a Covid-19 vaccine it is developing with the University of Oxford could still be ready by the end of the year.
In European trading, shares in British Airways parent International Consolidated Airlines Group fell 1.8% after it outlined the terms of a planned capital increase to strengthen its balance sheet and reduce debt.
Trading in Asia was mixed, with the Shanghai Composite falling 0.6% while Korea's Kospi and Japan's Nikkei 225 each gained 0.9%.
Tensions between Washington and Beijing continued to loom over markets. More than 70% of U.S. companies polled by the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai expect geopolitical turbulence to create operational difficulties for them over the next three to five years, up sharply from roughly half that said the same thing last year.
The euro was up 0.7% against the dollar after the European Central Bank said it would keep interest rates unchanged. In the upcoming press conference, investors will be listening for indications on how a recently stronger euro will affect monetary policy.
In the bond market, the yield on the 10-year Treasury ticked higher to 0.717%, from 0.702% on Wednesday. Bond yields and prices move in opposite directions.
In commodities, Brent crude oil fell 1.3% to $40.28 a barrel and WTI futures slid 1.6% to $37.46 a barrel. American Petroleum Institute data released late Wednesday showed a surprise build in U.S. crude inventories.
Write to Caitlin Ostroff at firstname.lastname@example.org