Stocks edged lower in choppy trading Friday, keeping major indexes on track to end this holiday-shortened week lower.
The S&P 500 was down 0.1% as of 2:21 p.m. Eastern. The benchmark index is down 1.1% for the week and on track for its fifth straight drop.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average, slipped 58 points, or 0.2%, to 34,820, and the Nasdaq composite shed an early gain, slipping 0.1%.
Health care, technology and communications stocks weighed on the market. Those losses offset gains by industrial stocks and a mix of retailers and other companies the rely on direct consumer spending.
Stocks have traded in a narrow range for several weeks as most investors are sitting on the sidelines waiting to get a fuller understanding of where the economy is headed and how the pandemic is impacting corporations.
“There isn’t any new good news coming, and that’s important because we’ve gotten a decent amount of good news that has flowed up until this point this year,” said Liz Young, head of investment strategy at personal finance company SoFi.
Investors got a negative piece of inflation data on Friday. Inflation at the wholesale level climbed 8.3% last month from August 2020, the biggest annual gain since the Labor Department started calculating the 12-month number in 2010.
Federal Reserve policymakers have said they believe inflation this year would be temporary and is a result of the economy recovering from the pandemic. However, persistently high inflation could force the Fed’s hand to start pulling back on its bond-buying program and low interest rate policy sooner than anticipated.
The bond market had a mild reaction to the inflation data, a possible sign that investors continue to agree with the Fed’s outlook. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 1.33% from 1.30%.
The pandemic remains in the forefront of investors’ minds, as hospitals fill up in the South and other parts of the country. President Joe Biden announced Thursday that companies with more than 100 employees would be required to have their employees vaccinated or do weekly testing, an announcement big companies have been willing to embrace.
“A lot of the pain was felt in August and that’s part of why September is going to be so choppy,” Young said. “I’m hopeful that some of the worst of that is behind us and we can move forward.”
The market is still trying to find reasons to go higher, she said, and the economy is also likely to keep grinding on because of the desire from consumers and companies to get back to a more normal way of operating.
Industries that have been hit hardest through the pandemic and are relying on a steady recovery have been struggling as COVID-19 cases rise with the highly contagious delta variant. Airlines slumped, with American Airlines shedding 4.8% and Delta Air Lines falling 2.8%.
Restaurant and arcade operator Dave & Buster’s rose 2.7% after reporting solid financial results. Endo International surged 30.7% after settling opioid cases with the state of New York and two large counties in a $50 million deal.
Energy futures were mostly headed higher. The price of U.S. crude oil rose 2.3%, helping nudge energy stocks higher.