Stocks are struggling to stay positive in midday Thursday trade as Wall Street braces for Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen’s keynote speech Friday in Jackson Hole. Investors also weighed hawkish remarks from Kansas City Fed President Esther George who advocated for the Fed to end its accommodative monetary policy, as well as a significant gain in July durable goods orders that provides the Fed the ammunition to hike rates against this year.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average is just 3 points lower, while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq are clinging to slim gains on strength in the technology, material and telecom sectors.
The benchmark indices are also anchored to key technical levels that are preventing a breakout before Yellen’s speech tomorrow. The S&P 500 respected support at the 200-hour moving average at 2,175 while the upside is capped at the 200-hour moving average in the Dow Jones Industrial Average at 18,500.
Also, jobless claims were down 1,000 for the week ended August 20 to 261,000, better than expectations for a gain of 3,000 to 265,000, while the Kansas City manufacturing index deteriorated to negative 4 in August from negative 6 in July.
On the downside, the preliminary August purchasing managers index for the services sector fell to 50.9 from July’s 51.4, missing projections for an increase to 52.0.
European equities are lower with mining and pharmaceutical stocks taking the brunt of today’s selling pressure. And unexpected drop in the German Ifo index contributed to a 0.88% loss in the German DAX index, making it the underperformer among euro-zone indices.
Crude oil was up $0.20 to $46.97 per barrel. Natural gas was up $0.06 to $2.89 per 1 million BTU. Gold was down $4.60 to $1,325.10 an ounce, while silver was down $0.05 to $18.64 an ounce. Copper was unchanged at $2.09 per pound.
Among energy ETFs, the United States Oil Fund was up 0.56% to $10.88 with the United States Natural Gas Fund was up 2.65% to $8.52. Amongst precious-metal funds, the Market Vectors Gold Miners ETF was up 1.74% to 27.44 while SPDR Gold Shares was down 0.17% to $126.13. The iShares Silver Trust was down 0.06% to $17.61.