The S&P 500 index has opened largely unchanged as growing US-China trade tensions and concerns about a rebound from a coronavirus-led economic slump were offset by an upbeat outlook from retailer TJX.
The discount chain’s shares jumped 7.6 per cent to a more than two-month high and were the biggest boost to the benchmark S&P 500 after it flagged strong sales at its stores that had reopened post-coronavirus lockdowns.
A fall in unemployment claims from the previous week also lifted sentiment as the reading reaffirmed views that the worst of the pandemic’s damage on the labour market was over.
“The trajectory of job losses has come down dramatically (and) as you’re going to start to see the reopening of several states, we will see some jobs come back,” said Edward Moya, senior market analyst at OANDA.
“We’re probably in for a couple more weeks of bad initial jobless claims and then we’re going start to see things bottom out.”
A Wall Street rally from April has slowed this month as investors weighed massive stimulus measures against worsening economic indicators and the return of US-China trade tensions to the forefront.
On Wednesday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo further criticised Beijing authorities’ handling of the outbreak.
In early trading on Thursday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 50.65 points, or 0.21 per cent, at 24,626.55, the S&P 500 was down 0.36 points, or 0.01 per cent, at 2,971.25, and the Nasdaq Composite was down 14.41 points, or 0.15 per cent, at 9,361.37.
Analysts said investors were now watching for the S&P 500 to cross 3,000 points, a key psychological level that could bolster risk appetite.
Eight of the major 11 S&P indexes were trading higher, with the consumer discretionary index leading gains.
Best Buy Co Inc fell 2.1 per cent as the electronics retailer reported a 5.3 per cent drop in quarterly same-store sales due to the virus, while L Brands Inc surged 15.2 per cent despite posting worse-than-expected quarterly results.
TJX’s smaller rival Ross Stores Inc jumped 7.8 per cent.
Advancing issues almost matched decliners on the NYSE and the Nasdaq.
The S&P index recorded five new 52-week highs and no new low while the Nasdaq recorded 31 new highs and two new lows.