Stocks Still Showing A Lack Of Direction

After initially showing a lack of direction, stocks continue to turn in a lackluster performance in mid-day trading on Thursday. The major averages have spent the day bouncing back and forth across the unchanged, extending the trend seen in recent sessions.

Currently, the major averages are posting modest losses. The Dow is down 32.70 points or 0.2 percent at 20,925.20, the Nasdaq is down 1.06 points or less than 0.1 percent at 6,071.49 and the S&P 500 is down 0.91 points or less than 0.1 percent at 2,387.22.

The choppy trading on Wall Street comes as traders are looking ahead to the release of the Labor Department’s closely watched monthly jobs report on Friday.

Employment is expected to increase by 180,000 jobs in April after rising by 98,000 jobs in March. The unemployment rate is expected to tick up to 4.6 percent from 4.5 percent.

Traders are also keeping an eye on developments in Washington, as House Republicans prepare to vote on a revised bill to repeal and replace Obamacare.

Republican leaders have expressed confidence the bill has enough support to pass, but reports suggest the vote is likely to be extremely close.

On the economic front, a report released by the Labor Department showed that first-time claims for unemployment benefits fell by more than anticipated in the week ended April 29th.

The report said initial jobless claims dropped to 238,000, a decrease of 19,000 from the previous week’s unrevised level of 257,000. Economists had expected jobless claims to dip to 247,000.

Meanwhile, the Labor Department released a separate report showing an unexpected drop in labor productivity in the first quarter along with a bigger than expected jump in unit labor costs.

The Labor Department said productivity fell by 0.6 percent in the first quarter after surging up by a revised 1.8 percent in the fourth quarter. Economists had expected productivity to come in unchanged.

The report also said unit labor costs spiked by 3.0 percent in the first quarter following a…

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