Stocks were mostly lower at the conclusion of Thursday’s trading session, as Wall Street braces itself for what could be more good economic data in the form of Friday’s December jobs report.
The Dow Industrials were off by one-tenth of a percent to 16,444.76 points, while the NASDAQ relinquished the previous day’s gains, shedding almost a quarter of a percent to 4,156.19 by the closing bell. Meanwhile, the Standard & Poor’s 500 index managed a small, late-day rally to end the day 0.03 percent in the green, for a finishing tally of 1,838.13 points.
The unpredictable and often counter-intuitive relationship between stock prices and positive economic news, particularly in terms of the labor market, was once again foregrounded as investors have come to assume that any significant reductions in unemployment will lead to greater eagerness on the part of the Federal Reserve to make further cuts to its monthly asset-purchasing program.
Financials and services stocks sent the S&P 500 just over the flatline, with both major financial institutions and regional banks gaining on heavy trading. Bank of America (BAC) , and Citigroup (C) , as well as the Southeastern Regions Financial Corp. (RF) and the Midwestern Huntington Bancshares Incorporated ($HBAN) were all higher by the closing bell. Delta Air Lines (DAL) , Southwest Airlines (LUV) , the Walgreen Co. (WAG) and department store chain Macy’s (M) also made substantial gains on the day.
The Dow was pulled into the red by tech shares, with four of the day’s five worst performances coming from Verizon Communications (VZ) , AT&T (T) , Cisco Systems (CSCO) , and Microsoft (MSFT) all extending losses into the end of the week, while oil giant ExxonMobil (XOM) was off by one percent. Major chemical manufacturer E.I. du Pont de Nemours (DD) provided the benchmark index’s best performance, adding another 1.28 percent by day’s end.
The NASDAQ may have had a down day, but healthcare stocks were a bright spot, with drug manufacturer Intercept Pharmaceuticals (ICPT) nearly tripling in value by the closing bell (a gain of 275 percent) after the company announced positive results from a Phase II clinical trial for its fatty liver disease treatment. The news was proved to be a boon for other healthcare stocks, including Galectin Therapeutics (GALT) , who is also working on a fatty liver disease treatment, as well as Conatus Pharmaceuticals (CNAT) and Marina Biotech (MRNA) , were all up over 50 percent on the news.
Meanwhile, electronics manufacturer Plug Power Inc. (PLUG) pared back a significant portion of the previous day’s gains, dropping over 27 percent. Social media goliath Facebook (FB) sold off on the heaviest trading of the day, losing nearly 1.75 percent.