Stocks Close Mixed but Little Changed in Quiet Session…..

U.S. stocks were able to claw out of an early hole to close near the flat line, as the tech-laden Nasdaq was the leader. Markets were near even following a recent rally in which the global markets have latched on to hope of a robust economic recovery in the second half of the year, largely spurred on by signs of improving COVID-19 trends and as expectations of further U.S. fiscal relief have gained steam. The positive sentiment helped markets overcome some mixed economic reports, as small business optimism surprisingly slipped though job openings unexpectedly accelerated. Earnings data continued to trickle in, as Take-Two Interactive Software’s results were met some scrutiny on the Street, and Hanesbrands rallied after topping forecasts and announcing growth plans. In M&A news, Electronic Arts announced a deal to acquire Glu Mobile for an enterprise value of $2.1 billion. Treasuries rose after the recent steepening of the yield curve, and the U.S. dollar seemed to roll over after a bounce as of late. Crude oil prices and gold moved higher. Asia and Europe were mixed, as the international markets assessed recent rallies.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 10 points to 31,376, the S&P 500 Index was down 4 points (0.1%) at 3,911, and the Nasdaq Composite increased 20 points (0.1%) to 14,008. In heavy volume, 892 million shares were traded on the NYSE and 8.5 billion shares changed hands on the Nasdaq. WTI crude oil added $0.39 to $58.36 per barrel. Elsewhere, the Bloomberg gold spot price rose $4.37 to $1,835.18 per ounce, and the Dollar Index—a comparison of the U.S. dollar to six major world currencies—fell 0.5% to 90.46.

Small business optimism surprisingly dips, job openings unexpectedly accelerate…..

The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) Small Business Optimism Index for January declined to 95.0 from December’s 95.9 level, and compared to the Bloomberg estimate of an increase to 97.0. The index fell to a level not seen since May 2020 and is below the 47-year average of 98, as owners expecting better business conditions over the next six months declined to a net negative 23.0% and the lowest level since November 2013.

The NFIB noted that the net percentage of owners expecting better business conditions has fallen 55 points over the past four months. The NFIB said, “As Congress debates another stimulus package, small employers welcome any additional relief that will provide a powerful fiscal boost as their expectations for the future are uncertain,” adding that “The COVID-19 pandemic continues to dictate how small businesses operate and owners are worried about future business conditions and sales.”

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