US stocks struggle for direction amid thin trading volumes ahead of long weekend

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US stocks struggle for direction amid thin trading volumes ahead of long weekend
Credit: © Reuters.

Investing.com-- U.S. stocks struggled for direction Thursday, as investors digested data that continue to suggest the economy is headed for a soft landing, though trading volumes were light ahead of key inflation headed into the long weekend.    

At 13:51 ET (17:52 GMT), Dow Jones Industrial Average rose just 24 points higher, or 0.1%, S&P 500 rose 0.1%, while  NASDAQ Composite fell 0.2%.

Q4 GDP growth revised higher 

The U.S. economy grew faster than previously estimated in the fourth quarter, with data released earlier Thursday showing gross domestic product  increased at a 3.4% annualized rate in the fourth quarter, revised up from the previously reported 3.2% pace.

The revision reflected upgrades in consumer spending, nonresidential fixed investment, and state and local government spending, all underpinned by a resilient labor market.

A separate report showed initial claims for state unemployment benefits fell 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 210,000 for the week ended March 23. 

However, investors are struggling to add to the previous session's strong gains after Fed Governor Christopher Waller , speaking at an Economic Club of New York gathering late Wednesday, said there was no hurry for the Fed to cut interest rates now, citing a slew of hotter-than-expected inflation readings in recent months. 

While Waller said that the central bank will eventually cut interest rates this year, he added current resilience in the U.S. economy gave the Fed substantial headroom to keep rates higher for longer.

His comments contrasted a somewhat dovish outlook from the Fed last week, where the central bank signaled that it still saw about 75 basis points of rate cuts in 2024. This had triggered a rally on Wall Street last week, with U.S. stock indexes now sitting in sight of record highs.

The main focus, however, will be on Friday’s release of the Fed’s favorite inflation gauge, the core personal consumption expenditures price index , when the market is shut for Good Friday, and is largely expected to factor into the outlook for U.S. interest rates.

Along with the PCE data, addresses from Fed Chair Jerome Powell and FOMC member Mary Daly are also due on Friday.

RH outlook trigger bullish upgrades from Wall Street "exceptional" demand; WBA delivers Q2 beat

RH (NYSE: RH ) stock soared 16% after the home furnishing company reported "exceptional" demand for its new catalog of products, even after its fourth-quarter results missed expectations, as adverse weather and shipping delays weighed.

"RH has high performance expectations for its bevy of new, sharper-priced products rolling out in catalogs and to its stores through the year," Wedbush said after lifting its price target on the stock to $320 from $260. 

Walgreens Boots (NASDAQ: WBA ) stock rose 3.4% after the pharmacy chain reported fiscal second-quarter sales that beat expectations, but lowered the high end of its full-year adjusted earnings outlook in part due to a “challenging” U.S. retail environment.

Take-Two, Home Depot in deal making acton

Take-Two Interactive Software (NASDAQ: TTWO ) stock rose 1.4% after the video games developer agreed to buy U.S. game developer Gearbox Entertainment for $460 million,. 

Home Depot (NYSE: HD ) stock dropped 1% after the home improvement retailer announced plans to buy building materials supplier SRS Distribution in a $18.25 billion deal, bolstering its business among professional customers.

'Crypto King' Sam Bankman-Fried gets 25-year jail sentence

Sam Bankman-Fried, the founder of FTX cryptocurrency exchange, was convicted of stealing $8 billion from customers and sentenced to 25 years in prison.  

The sentencing comes just as crypto rebounded from it recent malaise with BTC up 3.3% to $70,964 in recent trading.

 

(Ambar Warrick contributed to this article.)

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