U.S. stock indexes edged higher Thursday, nudging both the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 up to fresh closing records for a third straight day, as investors weigh economic data with an eye toward what it means for the Federal Reserve’s plans to eventually taper its asset purchases.

How did the markets trade?

The Dow Jones Industrial Average

closed up 14.88 points or 0.04% to 35499.85, a new record

The S&P 500

finished the day up 13.13 points or 0.30% to 4460.83, a new record

The Nasdaq Composite

rose 51.13 points or 0.35% to 14816.26

On Wednesday, the Dow industrials closed up 220.30 points, or 0.6%, to finish at a record 35,484.97, after hitting an intraday, all-time high of 35,501.16. The S&P 500 index rose 0.3%, or 10.95 points, to close at a record 4,447.70, after establishing an intraday record at 4,449.44. The Nasdaq Composite Index closed down 22.95 points, or 0.2%, at 14,765.14.

What drove the market?

Thursday marked the first time since March 15, 2021 that both the Dow and S&P 500 have closed at a new record for three consecutive days.

A round of economic data showed first-time claims for jobless benefit benefits came in at 375,000 last week, matching estimates and near a pandemic low. The producer-price index was up 7.8% year over year in July versus 7.3% in June, while the core PPI reading, which excludes food and energy, accelerated to 6.1% from 5.5%.

Analysts said the data could add to expectations for the Federal Reserve to move more quickly toward beginning to taper its monthly asset purchases.

“The trend in continuing claims is the positive takeaway. These numbers should continue to improve as more pandemic assistance programs expire next month,” said Sean Bandazian, investment analyst for Cornerstone Wealth.

“We are still in the camp that school openings, the expiration of extended unemployment benefits and continued vaccinations will translate into strong jobs data in the coming months and give the Fed the green light to taper sooner rather than later,” he said.

Meanwhile, July data likely marks the peak for PPI “as supply pressures gradually unwind in the coming months and demand moderates from its blistering pace in the first half of the year,” said Mahir Rasheed, U.S. economist at Oxford Economics, in a note.

“However, stubborn pandemic disruptions will continue to hamper supply through year-end, keeping producer prices sticky and prompting the Fed to begin QE tapering in early 2022,” Rasheed said.

The push to records for the Dow and S&P 500 on Wednesday were fueled by data that showed consumer prices easing somewhat, with the index rising 5.4% from a year ago in July. That number was in line with June and lower than some predictions.

But some investors might be wondering how high stocks can go, as they have been at or near new highs for a while, despite the rapid rise of new coronavirus cases across the U.S. and elsewhere, said Pierre Veyret, technical analyst at ActivTrades, in a note to clients.

“While some traders continue to ride this bullish wave, others have already started to hedge their portfolio against any potential decline, which explains the current rotation from growth stocks (tech shares) to cyclical values,” he said.

Investors will be watching for more news on COVID-19 vaccines, amid a report the Food and Drug Administration may authorize a third dose of Pfizer


and Moderna

shots for those with weakened immune systems. The emergency-use clearances could be announced as soon as Thursday, the New York Times reported late Wednesday.

Which companies were in focus?

EBay Inc. shares

reversed an early drop to close up 1.3% after the online auctioneer’s earnings beat guidance, though there were signs economic reopenings have hurt growth late Wednesday.

NIO Inc. shares

fell 3.4%. The U.S.-listed China electric-auto maker reported a narrower-than-forecast quarterly loss late Wednesday.

Shares of Lordstown Motors Corp.

rose 2.9% after the electric-vehicle maker reported another quarterly loss late Wednesday but said it is ready to start “limited production” of its all-electric pickup truck in September, with first deliveries early next year.

Opendoor Technologies Inc.

shares jumped 24%  after the online residential real-estate firm delivered stronger-than-expected earnings for the June quarter.

Shares of Palantir Technologies Inc.

rose 11.4% after the data analysis company posted stronger-than-expected revenue for the second quarter and reiterated long-term guidance

What did other markets do?

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note

was basically flat at 1.368%. Yields and debt prices move in opposite directions.

The ICE U.S. Dollar Index
a measure of the currency against a basket of six major rivals, was also flat.

Oil futures edged lower, with the U.S. benchmark

down 0.4% at $68.98 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Gold futures

were little changed, trading near $1,753.70 an ounce.

In European equities, the Stoxx Europe 600

rose 0.1%, while London’s FTSE 100

fell 0.4%%.

In Asia, the Shanghai Composite

and Japan’s Nikkei 225

each fell 0.2%, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index

lost 0.5%.

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