Stocks have a wobbly day, and Tesla drops 8.2%

The facade of the New York Stock Exchange.
(Spencer Platt / Getty Images)

Another wobbly day of trading on Wall Street ended Thursday with modest gains, nudging the market’s winning streak to a sixth straight day.

Banks, big retailers and communication services companies accounted for much of the market’s gains as a late-in-the-session flurry of buying drove stocks higher. Technology and healthcare stocks lagged the most.

Markets have been wobbly throughout the week as investors wait for the government’s jobs report Friday and prepare for a new round of corporate earnings reports next week.


New government data out Thursday showed applications for unemployment aid fell last week to a 49-year low. That likely means Friday’s jobs report will show a strong rebound in hiring after a weak February, said Phil Orlando, chief equity strategist at Federated Investors.

“The one piece of economic news we got today was actually quite good,” Orlando said. “The [jobs] number should be good, and to some degree I think the market has been grinding up, reflecting that improvement, along with other improvements in economic data points that we’ve seen over the last couple of weeks.”

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 5.99 points, or 0.2%, to 2,879.39. The Dow Jones industrial average climbed 166.50 points, or 0.6%, to 26,384.63.

The Nasdaq edged down 3.77 points, or 0.1%, to 7,891.78. The Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks advanced 6.58 points, or 0.4%, to 1,567.49.

Despite some bumps, the major U.S. stock indexes are on track to end the week with gains, adding to the market’s blockbuster returns from the January-through-March period. The S&P 500 is up 14.9% this year.

“The market is up 22% since the Christmas Eve lows, so the pace of improvement here is going to shift from being strongly positive, as we saw during the first quarter, to more of a grind at this point,” Orlando said.

The market could finish the week on a strong note if a the government’s jobs report shows, as many economists expect, that hiring bounced back in March after adding a paltry 20,000 jobs in February.

Most economists attributed February’s meager job gains to harsh winter weather and other temporary factors. The March tally is expected to show employers added 175,000 jobs, according to FactSet.

Investors are also keeping a close watch on U.S.-China trade negotiations. Washington and Beijing opened a ninth round of talks Wednesday, aiming to further narrow differences in a trade war that has deepened uncertainty for businesses and investors and cast a pall over the outlook for the global economy.

The latest reports say that both sides have resolved most of the key issues, with some pledges from China to end practices viewed by the U.S. as technology theft.

The big wave of corporate earnings reports arrives next week, and some companies have already begun providing details that hint at what their next quarterly report cards will show.

Tesla sank 8.2% a day after the electric-car company said vehicle deliveries fell sharply in the first quarter. The company churned out only 77,100 vehicles to start the year, leaving it well off pace to meet Chief Executive Elon Musk’s pledge to build cars at a rate of 500,000 a year.

Musk already warned investors that Tesla would lose money during the first quarter as it cuts costs in order to lower the price of the Model 3, its first electric car designed for the mass market.

Office Depot plunged 23.6% after the retailer warned investors that first-quarter revenue would fall short of forecasts. It also said a 20% jump in paper costs over the last 12 months would weigh down operating expenses.

Constellation Brands climbed 6.5% after the wine, liquor and beer company’s fourth-quarter results topped Wall Street’s forecasts. The company also said it will sell about 30 of its cheaper wine brands.

Boeing climbed 2.9% after new details were released about the deadly Ethiopian Airlines crash of a passenger airplane built by the aircraft manufacturer.

Bond prices were little changed. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note held at 2.51%.

The dollar rose to 111.58 yen from 111.47 yen. The euro weakened to $1.1221 from $1.1240.

Energy futures posted an uneven finish. Benchmark U.S. crude fell 0.6% to $62.10 a barrel. Brent crude, used to price international oils, edged up 0.1% to $69.40 a barrel.

Wholesale gasoline fell 0.6% to $1.94 a gallon. Heating oil rose 0.3% to $2.01 a gallon. Natural gas fell 1.3% to $2.64 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Gold inched down 0.1% to $1,294.30 an ounce. Silver slipped 0.1% to $15.08 an ounce. Copper fell 1.3% to $2.91 a pound.