By Pete Schroeder
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. stocks were volatile Thursday as investors awaited Friday’s monthly U.S. jobs report, while oil continued to rise on announced big supply cuts from OPEC+.
U.S. stocks wavered between positive and negative territory as investors grappled with murky economic data offering conflicting views on how much interest rates hikes were beginning to bite into the economy.
All three major indices were lower by midday trading. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 0.74%, the S&P 500 dropped 0.71% and the Nasdaq Composite was off 0.51%.
The MSCI world equity index, which tracks shares in 45 nations, was down 0.65%.
The dollar ticked up, as did U.S. Treasury yields, with benchmark 10-year Treasury notes up 5.6 basis points at 3.812%.
The dollar index, which tracks the greenback versus a basket of six currencies, was up 0.98%.
“The rise in U.S. yields is weighing on equities and it is driving up the U.S. dollar too,” said David Madden, market analyst at Equiti Capital. “In recent weeks, the greenback has been a popular safe haven play and considering the fall in equities, it is also receiving a lift in that regard.”
Markets seesawed as investors awaited the monthly U.S. jobs report on Friday, which could flesh out how much the tight labor market is loosening.
On Thursday, the Labor Department reported initial claims for jobless benefits came in at 219,000 for the week ended Oct. 1, exceeding economist expectations of 203,000.
The jobless data added to the murky picture for investors, who are closely tracking economic reports for any signs the Fed is moving closer to being able to step away from aggressive interest rate increases.
Right now, a mixed picture is forming, after job openings figures suggested hiring is slowing, while measures of private-sector employment and service sector activity pointed to a stronger September than many had expected.
“The job market is still solid but is softening,” said Bill Adams, chief economist for Comerica Bank. “As the unemployment rate ticks higher, wage growth will likely slow, taming some of the inflationary pressure in the U.S. economy.”
For now, Fed officials are showing little sign of preparing to step back. On Thursday, Minneapolis Fed President Neel Kashkari said the Fed is “quite a ways away” from being able to pause its rate increases.
Complicating the near-term outlook further is next week’s data on U.S. consumer inflation, which is expected to have slowed for a third month in September to 8.1%, still its highest since the mid-1980s.
Plans by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its partners, including Russia, to steeply cut oil production continued to drive oil prices higher, where prices were increasing for the fourth straight day.
Brent crude was last up 0.72% at $94.04 a barrel. U.S. crude was last up 0.55% at $88.24 per barrel.
(Reporting by Pete Schroeder; Additional reporting by Dhara Ranasinge in London and Stella Qiu in Sydney; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise, Bernadette Baum, Andrew Heavens and Susan Fenton)