Closing Comment — Thursday, February 18, 2021
DJIA: 31,493.34, down 119.68
S&P 500: 3,913.97, down 17.36
Nasdaq Composite: 13,865.36, down 100.14
Stocks decline with Energy leading laggards
U.S. stocks ended lower on Thursday as investors assessed the latest batch of economic data releases and corporate earnings results. The Dow pared a more than 250 point drop to end 119 points lower, drifting from its record closing high notched yesterday. The S&P 500 lost 0.4%, while the Nasdaq Composite fell 0.7%, with each benchmark capping their first three-day losing streak since December and October, respectively.
On the data front, weekly initial jobless claims jumped by 861,000, well above the anticipated 773,000 increase, while the prior week’s reading was also upwardly revised. Separate releases revealed housing starts slumped 6% in January, while building permits unexpectedly increased during the same period, surging 10.4%. Treasuries pared some of their early morning weakness, with the yield on the 10-year note rising one basis point to 1.29%. In commodities, COMEX gold closed just above the flat line at $1,771.80/ounce, snapping a six-session losing streak, though still near its lowest level in seven months.
Nine of 11 S&P 500 sectors finished in negative territory, with Utilities and Consumer Discretionary the only advancers. Energy led laggards as WTI crude slid 1.8% to $60.07/barrel despite a larger-than-forecasted drawdown in weekly U.S. crude inventories. In corporate news, Walmart shed 6.2% after the big-box retailer missed analyst profit expectations, cautioning that sales should moderate this year as the pandemic-inspired tailwind tapers off. Albemarle lost more than 10% as the lithium producer beat top and bottom line estimates but provided mixed forward guidance. Elsewhere, software-maker Twilio jumped 7.9% after posting a surprise profit in the fourth quarter.