US stocks end mixed amid contradictory economic signs

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NEW YORK – With US and global economic data differing signals as the surge of Covid-19 infections continues to take a toll on the recovery, Wall Street equities ended mixed on Wednesday (Sept 1).

Weak private hiring data along with solid growth in manufacturing that was held back by difficulty finding workers were key factors for investors awaiting the Labour Department’s jobs report for August due on Friday.

The benchmark Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 0.1 per cent to close at 35,312.53, while the broad-based S&P 500 ended essentially flat at 4,524.09.

But the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index gained 0.3 per cent to kick off September by finishing at an all-time high of 15,309.38.

US stocks have posted steady gains and a series of records for months, as the economy has roared back from the worst of the pandemic shutdowns.

But the Delta variant of Covid-19 has hit manufacturing in China, which economists fear will be echoed in the States.

Investors initially seemed unconcerned by the big miss in private US hiring in August, which payroll services firm ADP reported as 374,000, about half what economist had been expecting.

The data “highlighted a downshift in the labour market recovery,” ADP chief economist Nela Richardson said.

Meanwhile, the Institute for Supply Management’s manufacturing index continued to grow last month amid strong orders and output, but “hiring difficulties at panelists’ companies were the most significant hurdle to further output,” said Timothy Fiore, ISM’s survey chief.

Retail giants Walmart and Amazon announced a push to recruit and hire tens of thousands of new workers.

Sam Stovall of CFRA said the holiday weekend has an impact on the market, but more importantly, the economic data could cause the Federal Reserve to slow plans to back on its stimulus efforts.

“If the data do come in a little weak, then it could cause the Fed to delay its tapering announcement and wait for additional data to come out,” he told AFP.

“We still think that they will begin tapering at the end of this year, but weak data that could end up postponing it,” he said of the central bank’s massive bond buying programme.

Walmart shares slipped 0.2 per cent, while Amazon gained 0.2 per cent.

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