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US open: Mixed start to trading as updates roll in from Jackson Hole

Thu 22 August 2019 14:52 | A A A

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(Sharecast News) - Trading began with some mixed results on Thursday as investors digested updates from the Federal Reserve's central banking symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

As of 1525 BST, the Dow Jones Industrial Average opened 0.28% firmer at 26,274.84, while the S&P 500 was broadly flat, down just 0.01% at 2,924.27 and the Nasdaq Composite started trading 0.24% weaker at 8,001.09.

The Dow opened 72.11 points higher on Thursday, following on from the previous session's gains as investors mulled over minutes from the Federal Reserve's last policy meeting, released overnight, which revealed the central bank had no "pre-set course" for cutting rates.

The minutes indicated that policymakers considered the move to be more of a "mid-cycle adjustment", a term Fed chair Jerome Powell used shortly before a major stock market sell-off after the central bank's July 30-31 meeting.

The widely watched 2-year and 10-year US Treasury yield curve flattened and then inverted again after the release of the minutes.

As far as Thursday was concerned, Fed officials were scheduled to deliver remarks throughout the session following a period of limited public appearances.

In an interview with Bloomberg TV, Kansas City Fed chief, Esther George, argued against further interest rate cuts so long as the American economy was growing at a pace near rate-setters' forecast, pointing out the costs associated with unwarranted policy easing.

George said she did not see a worsening outlook so she was not ready to vote for further stimulus. She was one of two policymakers who voted against a rate cut at the 30-31 July meeting.

Later in the afternoon, Philadelphia Fed President Patrick Harker told CNBC that while he had reluctantly backed the central bank's July rate cut, he saw no need for additional stimulus.

Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan was also scheduled to comment on the US economy later in the session but the summit's main event was set to take place on Friday, when chairman Jerome Powell would deliver a speech.

On the data front, the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits for the first time dropped by more than expected last week, according to data released by the Department of Labor on Thursday.

Initial jobless claims fell by 12,000 from the previous week's revised level to 209,000, versus expectations for a decline to 216,000. The previous week's level was revised up by 1,000.

Meanwhile, the four-week moving average came in at 214,500, up 500 from the previous week's average, which was revised up by 250.

Elsewhere, IHS Markit's Flash US PMI report revealed that manufacturing PMI had dropped below the 50 mark to 49.9 for the first time in almost a decade.

The figure, well short of the reading of 50.5 expected on the Street, indicated that business activity in US manufacturing sector had dropped into contraction territory.

Services PMI during the same period slumped to 50.9 from 53 in July and short of analysts' estimates of 52.8.

Tim Moore, economics associate director at IHS Markit said: "August's survey data provides a clear signal that economic growth has continued to soften in the third quarter."

"The PMIs for manufacturing and services remain much weaker than at the beginning of 2019 and collectively point to annualized GDP growth of around 1.5%."

The Kansas City Fed Manufacturing survey for August will be published at 1600 BST.

In corporate news, Hormel Foods was up 1.29% following its quarterly profit beat and reaffirmed outlook, while Nordstrom shares jumped around 10% after topping earnings and revenue expectations with its own quarterly figures., Gap and HP will all post their latest quarterly results after the close.

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