March 2, 2021

Stocks & Bonds: Shares Close Ahead Slightly After Mixed Data

The gains lifted the Dow Jones industrial average briefly into positive territory for the year, but it slipped near the end of trading.

The Dow rose 20.70 points, or 0.18 percent, to 11,559.95, just shy of the 11,577.51 at the beginning of 2011. The Standard Poor’s 500-stock index rose 2.84 points, or 0.23 percent, to 1,212.92, and the Nasdaq composite index gained 14 points, or 0.55 percent, to 2,576.11; both are still more than 2 percent below their levels at the year’s start.

The Treasury’s benchmark 10-year note rose 25/32, to 99 18/32, and the yield fell to 2.18 percent from 2.26 percent late Monday.

The United States markets digested a full agenda of economic data, as well as the release of Federal Reserve minutes from a meeting of the bank’s policy makers this month.

The report said Fed policy makers at the Aug. 9 meeting considered changing the size or composition of the Fed’s balance sheet and reducing the interest rate paid on banks’ excess reserve balances. Three members dissented on a vote that promised two more years of low rates, and they agreed to consider other options at their meeting in September, which was extended.

The minutes hardly made waves, with a slight rise in stocks after the report and a brief rally in bonds.

“I think it was in line with expectations, insofar as we have known that they have been getting more into debate and disagreements with one another over what might be prudent,” said Linda A. Duessel, equity market strategist at Federated Investors.

She said it reaffirmed a message that investors had heard from the Fed chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, in a speech last week that there is not much more the Fed can do.

Ms. Duessel and other analysts noted that the report on consumer confidence on Tuesday was one of the worst in recent years. The Conference Board consumer confidence index fell to 44.5 in August, from a reading of 59.2 in July. Stocks dipped in early trading but recovered.

Joshua Shapiro, chief United States economist at MFR Inc., said the index was at its lowest level in more than two years, since a level of 40.8 in April 2009.

In a separate report, residential real estate prices in the United States showed a 3.6 percent increase in the second quarter, according to the Standard Poor’s/Case-Shiller national home price index. But they also had an annual decline of 5.9 percent when compared with the second quarter of 2010. Home price levels for June 2011 were below those of June last year.

Brian M. Youngberg, an energy analyst for Edward Jones, said the markets weathered the consumer confidence numbers.

“It’s a mixed bag, but given everything, the market is holding up relatively well,” Mr. Youngberg said.

Oil prices were up 2 percent, for example, which is a sign of expectations for economic growth, he said. Crude futures for October traded in New York were up slightly at $88.90 a barrel. Gold on the Comex was up more than 2 percent at $1,838.10 an ounce.

Shares in Exxon Mobil, which signed an agreement on Tuesday with Russia’s top crude oil producer, Rosneft, declined 0.3 percent, to $73.91, and was the most widely traded stock on the energy index. Other top energy-related stocks rose slightly.

Philip J. Orlando, chief equity market strategist at Federated Investors, said that with a consumer report that was a “disaster” and the Fed minutes as expected, the attention was turning to the jobs report on Friday.

“The focus is going to be on the data,” he added.

New nonfarm payroll jobs are forecast to be 75,000 for August, compared with 117,000 the previous month, while the unemployment rate of 9.1 percent was not expected to change.

Catherine Rampell contributed reporting.

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