US stocks end lower ahead of key debt ceiling vote

NEW YORK – Wall Street stocks retreated on Wednesday as markets awaited a key congressional vote to lift the US debt limit, while data pointed to weakening Chinese manufacturing activity.

Investors are hopeful that the United States can avert a debt default following the passage of a compromise package late on Tuesday in a key House committee, a development expected to foreshadow full House approval on Wednesday evening.

“Optimism about the US avoiding a catastrophic default on debt is growing following the House Rules Committee approving a Bill based on a debt-ceiling compromise spearheaded by President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy,” said Mr Jose Torres, senior economist at Interactive Brokers.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished down 0.4 per cent at 34,908.27.

The broad-based S&P 500 shed 0.6 per cent to 4,179.83, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index also dropped 0.6 per cent to 12,935.29.

China’s manufacturing activity shrank in May for the second successive month, official figures showed, the latest sign that the country’s economic recovery is losing steam.

Meanwhile fresh US data on the lofty amount of job openings added to concerns the Federal Reserve will continue to lift interest rates in June.

Those worries were countered by comments from two senior Fed officials to skip an increase at the next meeting.

“I am in the camp increasingly coming into this meeting thinking that we really should skip not pause – I don’t like the word ‘pause’ – but skip an increase,” said Philadelphia Fed president Patrick Harker.

Among individual companies, Intel shot up 4.8 per cent after the company’s chief financial officer said revenues were on track to reach the higher end of the company’s previously discussed range.

American Airlines rose 1.1 per cent after it lifted key financial targets pointing to “continued strength in the demand environment.”

But Advance Auto Parts sank 35 per cent following disappointing quarterly profits as it reduced its shareholder dividend.

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