Stocks edge lower, easing indexes below recent record highs

Stocks edged lower Thursday, pulling major indexes a bit further below the record highs they marked at the beginning of the week. Investors continue to be focused on where the economy is headed as the pandemic wanes and also on the latest company earnings reports.

The S&P 500 index fell 0.4% as of 1:02 p.m. Eastern. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 8 points, or less than 0.1%, to 34,941 and the Nasdaq composite fell 0.8%. The S&P 500 is now down 0.3% for the week, while the the Nasdaq is down 1.2%.

Technology and communications stocks fell and were the biggest weight on the market. Banks, which have been reporting mostly solid financial results, made the broadest gains within the benchmark S&P 500.

More companies are reporting their latest quarterly earnings. Progressive sank 3% after the insurance company’s results fell far short of analysts’ forecasts. Morgan Stanley was little changed after reporting a 10% rise in quarterly profits from a year earlier.

A larger bulk of companies will start reporting next week, when earnings season gets into full swing.

American International Group, better known as AIG, rose 2.9% after the insurance company reached a deal with Blackstone Group to help manage some of its life insurance assets.

Investors are also trying to determine how the economic recovery will play out for the rest of the year as the world tries to get back to normal with COVID-19 waning, but still lingering.

“There’s a big question mark around COVID-19 shifting from an acute to a chronic condition for the global market,” said Rod von Lipsey, managing director at UBS Private Wealth Management.

While the virus and its variants aren’t likely to severely disrupt the economic recovery, expectations for a quick snapback have been stymied by persistent mutations, he said.

Traders will also be closely watching a second day of testimony before Congress by Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell. Powell suggested in testimony to a House committee Wednesday that inflation will likely remain elevated, but eventually moderate, reinforcing the central bank’s position that rising inflation is a temporary impact from the recovering economy.

Investors also got a report from the Labor Department showed that unemployment claims fell by 26,000 last week to 360,000, the lowest level since the pandemic struck last year.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 1.31% from 1.35% the day before.