US stocks tick higher as investors await key labor-market data

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  • US stocks eked out small gains on Wednesday, with all three major indexes closing slightly higher.
  • Investors are preparing for two big jobs reports this week, with weekly jobless claims and May payrolls on deck.
  • AMC Entertainment’s Reddit-fueled rally continued.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

US stocks ended slightly higher Wednesday as investors prepared for two key reports about the health of the country’s labor market as the COVID-19 pandemic wears on.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 eked out small gains but managed to hover near record highs. The Nasdaq Composite narrowly avoided its second straight loss to end the day in the green.

The day’s tepid gains came ahead of Thursday’s update from the government on weekly claims for unemployment benefits. Those figures will be followed by the Labor Department’s jobs report for May on Friday. Payrolls are expected to rise to 645,000 following April’s weaker figures.

Here’s where US indexes stood at 4 p.m. on Wednesday:

“We’re in a bit of a holding pattern, where the major indices remain just below all-time highs but the momentum hasn’t been there for a test of those levels,” JJ Kinahan, chief market strategist at TD Ameritrade, said in a Wednesday note.

“It’s understandable, really, when you consider the possible ramifications of the data coming up not just this week with jobs but next week with May consumer prices. People may not be comfortable stepping into big new positions with so much news ahead and the Fed waiting in the wings,” he said.

Minutes released recently from the Federal Reserve’s policy meeting in April indicated the central bank is moving closer to discussions about potentially tapering economic support as the country recovers from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. On Wednesday, the Fed through its so-called Beige Book said the economy has expanded at a moderate pace from early April to late May. Relaxed social distancing measures and coronavirus vaccinations have boosted consumer spending at restaurants and for leisure travel, but price pressures have been building, it said.

Around markets, AMC Entertainment was back in the spotlight as shares more than doubled during the session, fueled by Reddit cheerleaders who overpowered a large stake sale by a hedge fund.

Bed Bath & Beyond surged as much as 54% after the housewares retailer said it’s launching its own private label brands. Meanwhile, Etsy is spending $1.6 billion to buy Depop, a social shopping app targeted at Gen Z shoppers. Shares of the online marketplace jumped.

Dogecoin climbed as much as 41% as the Coinbase Pro network begins to accept transfers of the meme currency.

Imax and Cinemark were downgraded to “Sell” ratings at Goldman Sachs.

Gold rose 0.3% to $1,906.91 per ounce. Long-dated US Treasury yields fell, with the 10-year yield down at 1.59%.

Oil prices extended gains after OPEC and its allies on Tuesday decided to continue restricting oil inflows into the market while they slowly increase supply. West Texas Intermediate crude gained 1.6%, to $68.81 per barrel. Brent crude, oil’s international benchmark, picked up 1.5%, to $71.33 per barrel.

Bitcoin tacked on 3.5% to trade at $37,978.88.

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