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Stocks slip as investors monitor the U.S. Fed, COVID-19 impact

Stocks slip as investors monitor the U.S. Fed, COVID-19 impact
Business
Stocks fell in afternoon trading Wednesday as investors wait for more guidance from the Federal Reserve and monitor the direction of the coronavirus pandemic.

The S&P 500 index was down 0.2% as of 12:23 p.m. Eastern. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell, 70 points or 0.2%, to 35,029 and the Nasdaq composite was down 0.7%.

The market was roughly split between gainers and losers, but weakness in technology stocks continued to weigh down the market. Apple fell 1.3% and chipmaker Nvidia fell 2.5%. Less risky investments, including consumer staples and utilities, were making broad gains.

Shares of cryptocurrency trading platform Coinbase fell 2.5% after the company disclosed it was being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission over its plans to offer its cryptocurrency holders a chance to earn interest on their assets if they lent them out. The company said the regulator has threatened to take civil enforcement action, and the launch of the lending program has been delayed until at least October.

The market continues to remain in a narrow range of gains and losses for the past couple of weeks, as investors look for any sort of understanding of where the U.S. economy is headed with the widespread delta variant of the coronavirus. Investors could be in for a choppy market through September as they monitor the Federal Reserve and Washington, which has to deal with budget reconciliation, infrastructure spending and the debt ceiling.

"If you look at the calendar, it s aggressive," said Katie Nixon, chief investment officer at Northern Trust Wealth Management.

Investors received another conflicting report from the government on Wednesday. U.S. employers posted record job openings for the second consecutive month in July, according to the Labor Department. The disconnect between the growing number of job openings and the weak recovery for employment levels is another signal that the overall jobs recovery could be crimping the broader economic recovery.

"People have remained reluctant to engage in the labor market," Nixon said. "This is not a demand problem, it s a supply issue."

If that s the case, she said, there s not much the Federal Reserve can do about it and tapering its bond-buying program makes sense. Still, there s probably a long way to go before the central bank focuses on raising interest rates.

Investors will get some additional new information from the Federal Reserve later Wednesday when the central bank releases its "Beige Book" survey of regional economic conditions. The collection of anecdotal economic data and observances is used by policymakers to help them decide how to move interest rates and, more importantly, decide whether to end the bank s bond-buying program that s existed since the pandemic started.
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