U.S. stocks fluctuated early Thursday, after erasing an early advance, as concern that the Ukraine conflict is escalating offset better-than-estimated earnings and a drop in American jobless claims.
The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index fell 0.1 percent to 1,917.53 at 11:09 a.m. in New York, reversing an earlier advance of 0.5 percent. The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 21.86 points, or 0.1 percent, to 16,421.48. Trading in S&P 500 companies was 3.3 percent below the 30-day average for this time of day.
“You just have some geopolitical fear out there that investors always place some risk premium on,” Greg Woodard, a strategist in Fairport, New York, at Manning & Napier Inc., which has about $54 billion under management, said in a phone interview. “If you have underlying fundamentals improving, you have individual companies doing well, and you get some volatility as a result of macroeconomic worries, we’d view that as an opportunity to selectively buy.”
The S&P 500 has lost 3.6 percent since reaching a record of 1,987.98 on July 24. The benchmark slid 2.7 percent last week, its biggest drop since June 2012, as companies around the globe posted disappointing results, Argentina defaulted and the U.S. and European Union expanded sanctions against Russia.
European Central Bank President Mario Draghi said the risks to the recovery from conflicts including that in Ukraine are increasing. Headwinds facing the 18-nation euro area’s recovery are intensifying after Italy slipped back into recession and the standoff between Russia and the U.S. and its allies escalated into the worst such conflict since the Cold War.
In the U.S., data showed fewer Americans filed applications for unemployment benefits last week, sending the average over the past month to an eight-year low, a sign the labor market continues to gain momentum. Jobless claims decreased by 14,000 to 289,000 in the week ended Aug. 2 from 303,000 in the prior period. The median forecast of 47 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for an increase to 304,000.
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