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Stocks Sway Between Gains and Losses; Eyes on Hiring, Oil’s Drag

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February 3, 2016

(Wednesday Pre-Market) U.S. stocks struggled between narrow gains and losses in early action, tracking declines in Asian and European stocks and following a steep drop in Tuesday’s session.

The previous day’s drop could be linked to another retreat for crude oil prices, back below $30 a barrel; oil has rebounded mildly today but remains capped by expectations that data could show another build in inventory. The decline pushed the S&P 500 (SPX) near a test of 1900 (figure 1).

Stock futures trading did improve after a round of economic data. In fact, stock trading may remain volatile and then quiet down in anticipation of Friday’s typically closely watched monthly jobs report. Ahead of that report, another labor market snapshot issued this morning revealed that private-sector employment gains increased in January but at a slower pace than in the prior month. Employers added 205,000 jobs in January, according to Automatic Data Processing. As for Friday’s report, economists polled by MarketWatch forecast nonfarm payrolls rose by 180,000 jobs last month, down from the substantial 292,000 in December.

S&P 500 stock chart

FIGURE 1: EYES ON 1900.

The S&P 500 (SPX), plotted here through Tuesday on TD Ameritrade’s thinkorswim® platform, held the psychologically significant 1900 line, which could again be tested in upcoming trading sessions. Data source: Standard & Poor’s. For illustrative purposes only. Past performance does not guarantee future results.

Crude Supplies Rise Again. The American Petroleum Institute late Tuesday reported that crude supplies climbed by 3.8 million barrels for the week ended January 29, MarketWatch reported, citing sources who reviewed the report. The more closely watched Energy Information Administration report is due Wednesday. This week, expectations for a supply build have kept major oil futures barometers below $30 a barrel so far.

China Holds 2016 Growth Target. China's target for economic growth this year remains in a range of 6.5% to 7%, the head of the country's top economic planning agency said Wednesday, according to financial media. Growth in the world's second-largest economy decelerated to 6.9% last year, the slowest in 25 years. The government will set a more precise target in March.

Earnings Movers. Shares of Yahoo (YHOO) were lower Wednesday after the internet services company late Tuesday issued a Q4 loss. YHOO also announced plans to cut 15% of its workforce and explore strategic alternatives for its core business. The company said it will shut five global offices and reduce its employee count to 9,000 by the end of 2016. Chipotle Mexican Grill (CMG) dropped after the burrito chain late Tuesday posted its first-ever sales decline.

Good Trading,

JJ

@TDAJJKinahan

economic report calendar

FIGURE 2: ECONOMIC AGENDA.

This week’s U.S. economic report calendar. Source: Briefing.com.

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