Stimulus Suspense Keeps Stocks Flat

Stocks were flat on Thursday as traders kept an eye on Washington for clues on a new coronavirus stimulus package and pored over better-than-expected unemployment data.

The Dow Jones Industrials stayed green 30.9 points to 27,232.42.

The S&P 500 dropped 2.05 points to 3,325.72.

The NASDAQ recovered 5.2 points to add to Wednesday’s record high at 11,003.59.

Materials, health care and energy were the worst-performing S&P 500 sectors. A 1.7% gain in McDonald’s was offset by declines in Merck and Johnson & Johnson within the Dow.

Thursday’s moves also come as lawmakers struggle to reach a deal on a new coronavirus relief package. The White House appeared to yield slightly on its opposition to continued federal support for unemployment benefits. The Trump team offered to extend extra federal unemployment insurance into December at $400 per week.

The U.S. Labor Department said initial jobless claims for the week ending Aug. 1 totaled 1.186 million. That’s well below a Dow Jones estimate of 1.423 million and the lowest claims levels since the pandemic began.

The data came a day before the government’s monthly non-farm payrolls report, which is expected to show jobs growth of 1.264 million for July.

Prices for the 10-Year Treasury moved determinely ahead, dropping yields to 0.52% from Wednesday’s 0.55%. Treasury prices and yields move in opposite directions.

Oil prices added nine cents to $42.28 U.S. a barrel.

Gold prices leaped $19.60 to $2,068.90 U.S. an ounce.