U.S. stocks little changed as retailers drop before jobs report

U.S. stocks were little changed as retailers slumped and investors awaited tomorrow’s jobs report for clues to whether the Federal Reserve will accelerate the pace of stimulus cuts.

The S&P 500 (CME:SPH14) rose less than 1 point to 1,838.13 at 4 p.m. in New York.

“You could be seeing some anticipation that the jobs number tomorrow could be really high,” Walter Todd, who oversees about $950 million as chief investment officer of Greenwood Capital Associates LLC in Greenwood, South Carolina, said by phone. “That could change the timetable for the Fed’s ultimate exit from quantitative easing.”

The S&P 500 has fallen 0.7% in 2014, after climbing 30% last year, the most since 1997. Three rounds of Federal Reserve stimulus have helped propel the S&P 500 higher by as much as 173% from a 12-year low in 2009.

Fed Tapering

Equities slipped yesterday as minutes from the Fed’s latest meeting fueled concern that stimulus cuts may be accelerated. Officials saw diminishing economic benefits from the central bank’s bond-buying program, according to the minutes, which didn’t describe a set schedule for the pace of reductions, although “a few” officials mentioned the need for a “more deterministic path.”

The Fed announced after the December meeting that it would begin trimming monthly bond buying by $10 billion to $75 billion this month as the U.S. economy continues to improve.

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