U.S. Stocks Showing A Lack Of Direction Following Recent Strength

After ending the previous session mostly higher, stocks have shown a lack of direction over the course of morning trading on Tuesday. The major averages have spent the morning bouncing back and forth across the unchanged line.

Currently, the major averages are posting modest losses. The Dow is down 125.94 points or 0.4 percent at 33,475.21, the Nasdaq is down 13.49 points or 0.1 percent at 12,175.96 and the S&P 500 is down 9.28 points or 0.2 percent at 4,115.23.

The choppy trading on Wall Street comes as traders express some uncertainty about the near-term outlook for the markets following recent strength.

The Dow and the S&P 500 closed higher for the fourth straight session on Monday, reaching their best closing levels in over a month, while the Nasdaq is just off the six-month closing high set last Friday.

Traders may also be looking ahead to the release of the Labor Department’s closely watched monthly jobs report on Friday.

Economists currently expect the report to show employment increased by 240,000 jobs in March after climbing by 311,000 jobs in February. The unemployment rate is expected to hold at 3.6 percent.

While the markets will be closed for Good Friday when the report is released, the data could still impact the outlook for interest rates and the economy.

The Labor Department released a report this morning showing job openings in the U.S. decreased by more than expected in the month of February.

The report said job openings fell to 9.9 million in February from a revised 10.6 million in January. Economists had expected job openings to decline to 10.4 million from the 10.8 million originally reported for the previous month.

A separate report released by the Commerce Department showed new orders for U.S. manufactured goods fell by more than expected in the month of February.

The Commerce Department said factory orders slid by 0.7 percent in February after plunging by a revised 2.1 percent in January.

Economists had expected factory orders to decrease by 0.5 percent compared to the 1.6 percent slump originally reported for the previous month.

Sector News

Most of the major sectors are showing only modest moves on the day, contributing to the lackluster performance by the broader markets.

Steel stocks have shown a significant move to the downside, however, with the NYSE Arca Steel Index plunging by 3.0 percent after closing higher for eight straight sessions.

Considerable weakness is also visible among banking stocks, as reflected by the 1.9 percent drop by the KBW Bank Index.

Energy stocks are also seeing notable weakness following yesterday’s rally, while gold stocks are moving sharply higher along with the price of the precious metal.

Other Markets

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region moved mostly higher during trading on Tuesday. Japan’s Nikkei 225 Index rose by 0.4 percent, while China’s Shanghai Composite Index climbed by 0.5 percent.

Meanwhile, the major European markets have turned mixed on the day. While the U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index has edged down by 0.2 percent, the French CAC 40 Index is up by 0.3 percent and the German DAX Index is up by 0.4 percent.

In the bond market, treasuries have turned positive over the course of the session after seeing initial weakness. Subsequently, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note, which moves opposite of its price, is down by 5.2 basis points at 3.378 percent.

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