U.S. stocks finished mostly lower on Thursday but avoided bigger losses after upbeat corporate earnings offset a volatile tech sector.
Tech Sector Rollover
After a spectacular month of gains, technology shares declined sharply on Thursday. Profit-taking was the likely culprit for the decline. The S&P 500’s technology index closed down 0.8%. The large-cap index fell 0.1% as a result.
The Nasdaq Composite Index, which is more heavily exposed to tech shares, declined 0.6%.
Verizon Saves the Day
A stellar earnings report from telecom blue-chip Verizon saved Wall Street’s bacon on Thursday. The telecom giant earned 96 cents per share in the second quarter on revenue of $30.55 billion. Investors were especially stoked about the success of Verizon’s unlimited data plan, which helped attract more customers.
Verizon shares spiked 7.7%, which triggered a 5.2% rally in the telecom sector. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.4% as a result, reaching its highest level on record.
Verizon joins a growing list of blue chips to report strong quarterly results. Financial research firm FactSet will publish its weekly earnings recap on Friday.
Volatility Reaches Multi-Week High
The CBOE VIX Volatility Index closed above 10.00 on Thursday for the first time in more than two weeks. To get a sense of how low that is, it’s important to remember that Vol trades on a scale of 1-100. Anything below 20.00 is considered weak.
Investors on the hunt for volatility should look anywhere but stocks these days. The currency market has seen its fair share of volatility, with the U.S. dollar falling to 15-month lows. (At the same time, the euro, Canadian dollar and Australian dollar have reached multiyear highs.) Commodities are also highly volatile, although that has played into the hands of oil this week. U.S. crude futures are up 7% over the past five days.
The Look Ahead
Investors can expect a deluge of economic data on Friday headlined by preliminary U.S. gross domestic product (GDP). The broadest measure of economic growth is expected to show 2.6% expansion in the second quarter.
Energy traders will also be monitoring weekly rig-count data courtesy of Baker Hughes Inc. Last week, Baker Hughes said active rigs fell by two, as producers seem to be slowing the relentless pace of drilling witnessed in the first six months of the year.