The US markets closed lower on Thursday, with the Dow edging into negative territory to extending its losing streak to six sessions, as a delay in a closely watched health-care vote raised questions about the Trump administration’s ability to win passage of its ambitious legislative agenda. Trading was volatile, with major indexes at one point posting solid gains, but then turning lower ahead of the close after House Republican leaders delayed a vote to replace the Affordable Care Act.
On the economy front, the number of Americans who applied for unemployment benefits last week jumped by 15,000 to 258,000 and matched a two-month high, with fresh revisions showing layoffs a bit higher in the past 15 months than previously reported. The government updated jobless claims going back five years as it does annually to take into account more accurate seasonal adjustments. The new figures show layoffs are still extremely low but a bit higher than previously reported, mostly since 2016. Consider the week ended January 14, at that period, the government said new claims totaled 237,000. Revised figures show that new filings actually reached 271,000. The more stable four-week average of initial claims, for example, rose by 1,000 last week to 240,000. New jobless claims bottomed out at 210,000 in the week of February 25 - marking the lowest level since December 6, 1969. Continuing jobless claims, meanwhile, fell 39,000 to 2 million in the week ended March 11.
On the other hand, sales of newly constructed homes powered to the highest pace in seven months in February as firm demand for housing outweighed lean supply and slightly higher mortgage rates. New-home sales ran at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 592,000. That was 6.1% higher than in January and 12.8% above last February’s level. February’s median sales price was $296,200, down 3.9% for the month and 4.9% compared with a year ago. Lower prices are likely helping boost sales, as is unseasonably warm weather: last month was one of the warmest Februarys on record. At February’s sales pace, it would take 5.4 months to exhaust available inventory, slightly tighter than the 5.6 months of supply available in January, but still representative of a balanced market.
Meanwhile, San Francisco Federal Reserve President John Williams said that the economy is in a good place and that the US central bank should continue to raise interest rates this year as fast as or faster than it has signaled it would. The fed president added that three or even four increases make sense. Most Fed officials see three interest rate hikes, including one made earlier this month, as appropriate in 2017. Williams said that better-than-expected economic data or maybe news of significant fiscal stimulus would lead the Fed to raise rates more quickly. Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank President Neel Kashkari said he would like to see a detailed plan for how and when the Fed will reduce its $4.5 trillion balance sheet as soon as possible. Kashkari was the lone dissenter against the US central bank’s decision last week to raise interest rates, citing the need for further progress on employment and inflation. The Minneapolis Fed chief has also said the Fed should hold off on further rate increases until it publishes its plan on the balance sheet.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 4.72 points or 0.02 percent to 20,656.58, the Nasdaq was down 3.95 points or 0.07 percent to 5,817.69, while S&P 500 dropped 2.49 points or 0.11 percent to 2,345.96.
The Indian ADRs closed mostly in green; HDFC Bank was up 0.96%, Tata Motors was up 0.91% and Infosys was up 0.37%. On the other hand, Dr. Reddy’s Lab was down 3.54% and ICICI Bank was down 0.14%.