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US Stocks Mostly Lower as Attention Shifts to Nonfarm Payrolls

US July nonfarm payrolls numbers make headlines on Friday.

US stocks traded mostly lower on Thursday as volatile oil prices weighed on the major indexes. Traders also shifted their focus to Friday’s nonfarm payrolls report, which is expected to show another month of firm employment growth.

The large-cap S&P 500 Index (NYSEARCA:SPY) declined 0.2% to close at 2,472.16. Six of 11 main sectors finished in negative territory, with energy shares plunging 1.3%.

The Nasdaq Composite Index (NYSEARCA:QQQ) also closed in the red, falling 0.4% to 6,340.34.

Meanwhile, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (NYSEARCA:DIA) gave up earlier gains to finish relatively flat at 22,025.69. That was enough for a new record high.

The CBOE VIX Volatility Index (NYSEARCA:VXX) edged up 1.6% to close at 10.43. The so-called “fear index” briefly fell below below 10.00 earlier in the session.

Oil prices were down on Thursday amid concerns of higher supplies from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures declined 73 cents, or 1.5%, to $48.86 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude futures fell 51 cents, or 1%, to $51.85 a barrel.

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The Labor Department will release its official jobs report Friday at 8:30 am ET. Economists are forecasting a monthly gain of 178,000, in line with the ADP private payrolls estimate that was released on Wednesday. The unemployment rate is projected to fall to 4.3% in July from 4.4% the previous month.

The Final Word: The equities rally shows no signs of abating despite underlying concerns about the health of US markets. With volatility in the doldrums, investor appetite for stocks will likely remain elevated for the foreseeable future.