Stocks Able to Notch Gains for the Day…..

U.S. equities finished higher in a volatile session, as investors weighed the persistent drop in yields, with Treasuries seeing increased demand, against data that continues to show economic prosperity. As well, this afternoon’s release of the minutes from the Fed’s June monetary policy meeting showed caution among Committee members, providing little sway to the markets. Energy issues again came under pressure amid another drop in crude oil prices on supply uncertainty that has been exacerbated by the recent breakdown in production talks between OPEC+. News on the equity front remained relatively quiet, but shares of SMART Global Holdings rallied in the wake of its stronger-than-expected earnings results and guidance. The economic calendar delivered another soft mortgage applications report and another record level of job openings. Elsewhere, the U.S. dollar gained ground, as did gold. Markets in Europe and Asia finished mixed.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average increased 104 points (0.3%) to 34,682, the S&P 500 Index gained 15 points (0.3%) to 4,358, and the Nasdaq Composite ticked 1 point higher to 14,665. In heavy volume, 887 million shares were traded on the NYSE and 4.5 billion shares changed hands on the Nasdaq. WTI crude oil fell $1.17 to $72.20 per barrel. Elsewhere, the Bloomberg gold spot price increased $6.03 to $1,803.11 per ounce, and the Dollar Index—a comparison of the U.S. dollar to six major world currencies—rose 0.1% to 92.64.

Job openings remain robust, mortgage applications decline, Fed minutes released

As labor shortage remains a drag on business sentiment, the Labor Department’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS), a measure of unmet demand for labor, showed a record high of 9.21 million jobs were available to be filled in May, versus the Bloomberg forecast calling for 9.33 million jobs and April’s downwardly-revised 9.19 million level. The report showed the hiring rate dipped to 4.1% from April’s 4.2% pace, while separations fell to 3.7% from the prior month’s 4.0% pace. The quit rate also decreased to 2.5% from 2.8%.

The MBA Mortgage Application Index declined by 1.8% last week, following the prior week’s 6.9% drop. The decrease came as the Refinance Index fell 2.3% and the Purchase Index was 1.1% lower. The average 30-year mortgage rate declined 5 basis points (bps) to 3.15%.

In afternoon action, the minutes from the Federal Open Market Committee’s (FOMC) June monetary policy meeting were released, indicating patience among the Committee regarding any tightening in the future. Some members felt that the economic recovery was moving forward faster than expected, accompanied by an increase in inflation. However, the Committee’s belief remained that there was no rush for a change to policy, saying the economy had yet to meet the “substantial further progress” that the Fed was looking for to make a case for a shift in direction. The minutes noted that members discussed tapering of its asset purchase program, but little details were given as to any timeframe.

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