U.S. stocks cut Thursday losses, with the S&P 500 shaking off losses to turn slightly higher, as investors weighed global worries against mostly better-than-expected U.S. earnings and economic reports.
“The market is not trading off of fundamental news, it is trading off worries, whether it’s the importing of weak economic growth or Ebola,” said Mark Luschini, chief investment strategist at Janney Montgomery Scott.
Stocks recovered much of their drop after St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank President James Bullard told Bloomberg News that the Federal Reserve should consider postponing the end of its bond purchase program to stop the drop in inflation expectations.
“He doesn’t vote, so what he thinks doesn’t mean anything,” said Peter Boockvar, chief market analyst at the Lindsey Group, who called Bullard’s comments “irresponsible and clueless.”
“It goes to show you that the market is willing to bite on anything,” offered Luschini.
“Volatility has reared its ugly head again, but we had nothing for the better part of 16 to 18 months. When you have nothing and go to something, its seems magnified, it’s much more pronounced,” said Chip Cobb, portfolio manager at BMT Asset Management.
After jumping as high as 29.41, the CBOE Volatility Index, a measure of investor uncertainty was lately up 1 percent at 26.52.
“We do all have short-term memories and really have never gotten away from 2008 and 2009. Even though the market was up double digits last year, and started off well this year, there hasn’t been a time in the last six years where people have had really strong convictions about this bull market,” said Cobb.
The government said its count of Americans filing claims for jobless benefits dropped to a 14-year low last week, falling by 23,000 to 264,000, its lowest since 2000.
Separately, U.S. industrial production rose 1.0 percent in September, versus expectations of 0.4 percent.
Less positive was a u-turn in confidence among home builders in October, falling sharply after rising to a nine-year high the prior month.
After a 206-point drop, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was lately down 40.98 points, or 0.3 percent, at 16,100.76.
The S&P 500 shed 2.63 points, or 0.2 percent, to 1,859.86, with consumer staples and technology hardest hit and materials and energy pacing gains among its 10 major industry groups.
The Nasdaq fell to a low of 4,131.65, pulling it down more than 10 percent from its recent bull-market intraday high, and was more recently trading at 4,204.48, off 10.84 points.
For every two shares rising, roughly three fell on the New York Stock Exchange, where 342 million traded by 10:10 a.m. Eastern. Composite volume cleared 1.7 billion.
On the New York Mercantile Exchange, oil futures were down 34 cents at $81.44 a barrel and gold futures fell $3.90, or 0.3 percent, to $1,240.90 an ounce.