Stocks finish mostly lower as bulls face resistance test.
U.S. stocks struggled for direction on Thursday, as the S&P 500 (NYSEARCA:SPY) and Nasdaq (NYSEARCA:QQQ) backed away from yearly highs following the release of mixed economic data from China and the United States.
The large-cap S&P 500 Index slipped 0.1% to 2,808.48. Six of 11 primary sectors fell, with materials leading the declines.
The technology-focused Nasdaq Composite Index fell 0.2% to close at 7,630.91.
Meanwhile, the Dow Jones Industrial Average pared losses to finish relatively flat at 25,809.94.
A measure of implied volatility known as the CBOE VIX (NYSEARCA:VXX) declined slightly on Thursday, as the overall picture remained favorable for equity investors. The so-called “fear index” dipped 1% to 13.27 on a scale of 1-100 where 20 represents the historic average.
In economic data, U.S. initial jobless claims rose more than expected last week, though the underlying trend continued to show a tight labor market. The number of Americans filing for first-time unemployment benefits rose by 6,000 to a seasonally adjusted 229,000 in the week ended March 8, the Department of Labor reported.
Separately, the Commerce Department reported that new home sales plunged 6.9% in January to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 607,000. That followed an upwardly revised gain of 3.8% for December.
The Final Word: Stocks appear poised to continue their recovery this month as traders continue to eye new developments in U.S.-China trade talks. A dovish Federal Reserve could propel markets even higher next week as officials prepare to release quarterly economic projections for GDP, unemployment and inflation.