Stocks Under Pressure Amid Stimulus Worries and More Chinese Gaming Scrutiny


Stocks finished down on Thursday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 notching a fourth straight day of declines.

The Dow dropped 151 points, or 0.45%. The S&P 500 fell 0.45% and the Nasdaq Composite dipped 0.25%. The Dow and S&P recorded their third consecutive day of losses on Wednesday.

Leading the major indexes lower were large capitalization technology stocks. The NYSE FANG+ Index fell 0.35%. These stocks weigh heavily on the S&P 500 and Nasdaq because they have unusually large market capitalizations.

Also weighing the index down was the healthcare sector, the second largest by market cap on the S&P 500, according to FactSet data. The Health Care Select Sector SPDR Exchange-Traded Fund (XLV) fell 1.2% after the Biden administration unveiled a plan to cut drug prices.

Meanwhile, many other stocks were faring decently. About 45% of S&P 500 stocks were in the green.

Initial jobless claims fell to 310,000 in the latest week, beating forecasts for 335,000. It was the lowest reading since before the pandemic-driven lockdowns were put in place in early 2020. Continuing claims fell to 2.78 million from 2.8 million, another pandemic-era low. The strong data were a welcome sight for investors, as the August jobs report showed a slower addition of jobs in the U.S. than expected.

Still, much of the strength in this employment data could be a result of employers holding onto employees amid a labor shortage, not entirely because they are aggressively adding jobs. “Bottom line, we know the challenge for the labor market is the supply of workers and thus follows that there has been a big decline in the level of firings,” writes Peter Boockvar, chief investment officer at Bleakley Advisory Group.

Investor attention is also focused on the future of monetary policy—namely, Covid-19 pandemic-era programs of monthly asset purchases from the U.S. Federal Reserve and other central banks, which add liquidity to markets.

On Thursday, the European Central Bank said it would slow down the pace of the bond-buying program it launched in March 2020 to counter the coronavirus pandemic’s effects, but confirmed its long-running stance that monetary policy would remain on the dovish side for months to come. 

“In the past week, market focus has shifted from when the Fed would begin to taper to when the ECB would reduce the pace of its purchases so today’s announcement should not come as a surprise,” writes Seema Shah, chief strategist at Principal Global Investors. 

Analysts also highlighted uncertainty over whether Fed Chair Jerome Powell will be reappointed, and concerns about the U.S. debt ceiling after Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen urged Congress to suspend or raise the debt limit.

London’s FTSE 100 fell 1% while the pan-European Stoxx 600 was down 0.1%. Paris’ CAC 40 and Frankfurt’s DAX were up 0.25% and 0.1%, respectively.

“It’s kind of interesting to see European stocks trim some of their earlier losses this morning following the ECB’s move, though it’s way too early to draw any conclusions about the market reaction,” writes JJ Kinahan, chief market strategist at TD Ameritrade. “One idea is that investors might see slowing bond purchases by central banks as evidence the economy is in a better place.” 

In Asia, Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 declined 0.6% while the Hong Kong Hang Seng Index tumbled 2.3%. The Shanghai Composite rose 0.5%.

Shares in Chinese media and gaming companies like Tencent and NetEase, listed in Hong Kong, fell after reports that regulators summoned groups in the sector to ensure they had implemented new rules and would respect competition laws. Last month China banned people under 18 years old from playing videogames for more than three hours each week.

Japanese stocks ended their longest winning streak since November. Investor sentiment in Tokyo has been buoyed by the resignation of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, which raises the prospect of a new leader who will usher in fresh stimulus measures. 

In the commodity space, natural-gas futures traded in New York are changing hands at the highest prices in seven years amid expectations for a cold winter.

T-Mobile US (TMUS) was down 1.67% following reports of a block trade of 12.5 million shares of the company. Shares of T-Mobile had fallen 0.9% so far this year.

Devon Energy  (DVN) rose 0.81% even after getting cut to Buy from Conviction Buy at Goldman Sachs. Analyst Neil Mehta cited the market’s recognition of the company’s dividend strategy for the downgrade.

Cisco Systems  (CSCO) fell 0.14% after getting downgraded to Equal Weight from Overweight at Morgan Stanley. Analyst Meta Marshall cited Cisco’s relative valuation for the cut.

BioMarin Pharmaceutical (BMRN) rose 4.45% after getting raised to Buy from Hold at Stifel. Analyst Paul Matteis cited the stock’s underperformance, as well as the potential approval of one of its drugs.

Macy’s  (M) has gained 1.9% after getting upgraded to Outperform from Market Perform at Cowen. “We upgrade M to Outperform as we forecast continued momentum from: more agile inventory and pricing management, data-centric loyalty and personalization actions, product innovation, and store-base reinvention on closures, digital integration + real estate monetization,” Cowen analyst Oliver Chen writes.

Lululemon Athletica  (LULU) rose 10.5% after reporting better-than-expected earnings. The athleisure-wear company reported a profit of $1.65, beating forecasts for $1.19, on sales of $1.5 billion, ahead of forecasts for $1.33 billion. It also raised its full-year guidance.

Write to Ben Levisohn at and Jacob Sonenshine at

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