Technology companies helped drag stocks lower on Wall Street Thursday, knocking the S&P 500 into the red for the week.
The benchmark S&P 500 index dropped 0.4% and is now on track for a 0.3% weekly loss. Technology companies, whose pricey valuations make them more sensitive to inflation fears, were the biggest weight on the market. Microsoft fell 0.6% and Apple lost 1.2%.
Retailers, hotel operators and a variety of other companies that rely on direct consumer spending also posted some of the biggest declines, as did communications companies. Etsy slid 5.4%, Tesla dropped 5.3%, Wynn Resorts fell 4.1% and Facebook lost 0.9%. Banks and health care companies rose.
The selling came as investors weighed the latest economic reports showing that unemployment claims are falling but labor costs are rising. Traders were also looking ahead to the government’s latest monthly jobs report Friday, which could provide more clarity on the economic recovery and the potential for higher inflation.
“There’s less conviction about what the jobs report may be, so you’re seeing the markets move a little sideways here,” said Megan Horneman, director of portfolio strategy at Verdence Capital Advisors. “We’ve gotten all these fantastic growth numbers, and now we’ve got to look past that and look toward the future at the actual growth beyond the pandemic, and people are just trying to get a handle on what that may look like.”
The S&P 500 fell 15.27 points to 4,192.85. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 23.34 points, or 0.1%, to 34,577.04. The tech-heavy Nasdaq lost 141.82 points, or 1%, to 13,614.51. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies gave up 18.59 points, or 0.8%, to 2,279.25.
Bond yields rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 1.63% from 1.59% late Wednesday.
Markets have been wobbly all week as investors closely watch the labor markets for more signs of economic growth and consider any information that could give more clues about rising inflation. Labor costs rose at a 1.7% rate in the first quarter, up from the initial estimate that costs had fallen 0.3%. That could stoke more fears that inflation might run hotter than expected
Rising inflation is expected as the economy recovers from the pandemic’s impact, but the key question for many on Wall Street is whether it will be temporary or more permanent.
“The main concern in the markets, rightfully so, is inflation,” said Cliff Hodge, chief investment officer for Cornerstone Wealth. “Data points are beginning to confirm the view that inflation is likely to be more sticky.”
Wall Street will get more detailed data on the labor market Friday when the Labor Department releases its monthly jobs report. Economists are projecting that it will show employers added 650,000 jobs in May.
Expectations of a strong increase in hiring have stoked worries about inflation and how the Fed may respond to it. The concern is that the global recovery could be hampered if governments and central banks have to withdraw stimulus to combat rising prices.
Inflation worries are also butting up against the recovery seemingly shifting from a sharp rebound to a grind, which could mean more choppiness as the economy adjusts.
“When the rubber meets the road with the realities of reopening, we think we could be in for a rocky period,” Hodge said.
AMC Entertainment slumped 17.9%, shedding gains from a brief rally, after the movie theater operator’s announcement that it would sell more shares following a huge run-up in its stock price on a surge of interest from individual investors. The stock is still up about 2,300% this year.
General Motors jumped 6.4% after saying it expects earnings in the first half of the year to exceed its earlier forecasts as its efforts to manage a global computer chip shortage have worked better than expected. Rival Ford Motor climbed 7.2% for the biggest gain in the S&P 500.
European and Asian markets closed mixed.