Stocks fall slightly as investors await key inflation data



Stocks were modestly lower on Thursday as investors monitored the health of the economy ahead of a key inflation report.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 96 points, or 0.3%. The S&P 500 dipped 0.3%, and the Nasdaq Composite shed 0.2%.

Casino stocks were some of the worst performers in the S&P 500, with Las Vegas Sands falling 3.4% and Caesars Entertainment falling 2.3%. Chinese tech stocks reversed recent gains, with Pinduoduo falling more than 6%.

Shares of Five Below dropped more than 5% after first-quarter sales came in softer than anticipated and the retailer shared weak guidance for the current period.

Tesla rose more than 2% after UBS upgraded the stock to buy. The firm also said the electric vehicle maker can rally more than 50% from current levels.

Investors have been assessing the health of the U.S. economy, with a key inflation report due out on Friday. The Federal Reserve has started hiking rates in an attempt to cool inflation without tipping the economic into recession.

Higher energy prices and continued supply chain disruptions have kept inflation persistently high in recent months, while some economic data has shown slowing growth in recent weeks.

“There’s a lot of headfakes going on. And unfortunately we’re not going to get a lot of clean looks at the economy, whether the U.S. economy or certainly the global economy, for quite some time because there’s just so many things that are hard to decipher,” said Michael Skordeles, senior U.S. macro strategist at Truist.

Oil prices dipped slightly on Thursday, but U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude still held above $120 per barrel.

Initial jobless claims rose to 229,000 last week, worse than the 210,000 expected.

Shares of Target were little changed after the company announced a dividend hike. The payout raise comes after a disappointing first quarter and a profit warning for the second quarter from the retail giant.

Overseas, the European Central Bank confirmed its plan to hike interest rates in July and possibly again in September. The ECB also raised its inflation projection for 2022 to 6.8%, up from 5.1% previously, and lowered its growth outlook.

“The ECB has never provided clearer forward guidance than they did today, signalling that a 0.50% policy rate increase is likely unless inflation pressures subside. With energy prices, if anything, on an upward path and supply chain concerns unlikely to ease in the near future, inflation pressures will not be quickly eroded,” said Seema Shah, chief strategist at Principal Global Investors.

On Wednesday, the Dow dipped 269.24 points, or 0.81%, to 32,910.90, while the S&P 500 shed 1.08% to close at 4,115.77. The Nasdaq Composite slid 0.73% to finish at 12,086.27.