Stocks closed Thursday’s session mixed, with the Nasdaq falling 0.6%, the S&P 500 losing 0.1%, and the Dow closing up less than 0.1% in a modest stall-out from this summer’s stock rally.
Thursday’s trading came as investors looked to build on on Wednesday’s surge, which saw the Nasdaq rise nearly 3% which put the tech index more than 20% higher than its mid-June closing low.
More data out Thursday morning, however, suggested some inflation pressures in the economy are cooling.
The producer price index (PPI) for July showed prices fell 0.5% from the prior month, a big surprise relative to expectations that this report would show a 0.2% increase in prices. On Wednesday, the consumer price index showed there was no change in consumer prices from June to July, with prices in July rising 8.5% over the prior year, less than expected.
“Core” producer prices rose 0.2% in July, less than the 0.4% that was expected.
“Producer prices registered an encouraging deceleration in July as energy prices lost steam and core input price pressures moderated after ramping up in June,” said Mahir Rasheed, U.S. economist at Oxford Economics. “In annual terms, headline PPI inflation cooled 1.5 percentage points to 9.8%, the slowest pace since October, while core PPI inflation eased 0.6 percentage points to 5.8%, the slowest pace since June 2021.”
July’s inflation data also comes as energy prices continue to moderate across the economy with the average price of a gallon of gas in the U.S. falling below $4 a gallon for the first time since March on Thursday, according to data from AAA.
Wednesday’s CPI data showed the price of gasoline fell 7.7% from June to July. On June 11, the average price of a gallon of gas topped $5 nationally.
The price of WTI crude oil, the U.S. benchmark, gained over 2% on Thursday to $94 a barrel. Earlier this week, WTI had traded below $89.
Data on the labor market showed initial jobless claims rose again last week to 262,000. Initial filings for unemployment insurance have been steady rising through the summer, suggesting to some economists the labor market is softening amid the Federal Reserve’s interest rate hikes.
The July jobs report, however, surprised last week as 528,000 jobs were added to the economy and the unemployment fell to a new pandemic low of 3.5%.
Elsewhere in markets, cryptocurrencies continue to trade more constructively, with the price of bitcoin up more than 7% at one point on Thursday to north of $24,500, the highest level for the market’s largest cryptocurrency since mid-June.
Ethereum was up even more on Thursday, rising 11% to nearly $1,900, the highest since late May.
Traders were also closely watching the VIX, known as the market’s “fear index,” which closed below 20 for the first time since early April on Wednesday, as expected volatility declines while the market’s rally from mid-June lows continues. The VIX traded back above 20 on Thursday, though remains depressed relative to levels seen earlier this year.
Notably, the company reported the addition of more Disney+ subscribers in the quarter than expected — adding 14.4 million against estimates for an increase of 10 million — and announced price increases across its streaming offerings, in addition to a new ad-supported tier of its core Disney+ offering in the U.S.
This post will be updated.