US stocks opened higher on Thursday but were unsteady on their feed, meaning a fifth day of gains was not assured as investors eyed higher-than-expected inflation print from a day earlier and mixed jobs and producer prices data.
At 1500 GMT, the Dow Jones Industrial Average opened more than 200 points higher but wobbled after an hour or so, with the S&P 500 and Nasdaq making similar moves.
The previous day's inflation data was still on traders' minds, as the consumer price index for January showed a 2.1% gain that was above economists' expectations for a fall to 1.9%, but the Dow's initial jump back wasn't held onto after strong producer prices data emerged on Thursday.
US PPI accelerated to 0.4% in January from -0.1 the prior month, the Labour Department said, thanks to strong gains seen in the cost of gasoline and health care, hinting that inflation pressures were building up after staying flat throughout December.
Connor Campbell, financial analyst at SpreadEx, said the core reading smashed forecasts, doubling estimates to arrive at 0.4%. “Those hawkish numbers appear to have been enough to temper investors' early enthusiasm, undermining the market's recently displayed resilience.”
After a couple of very volatile weeks in which US indices fell more than 10% from their record highs, Craig Erlam at Oanda, said market appeared to be “starting to regain some of their composure”, though volatility has remained quite elevated in recent sessions.
“We are slowly returning to more normal levels and are far from what we were experiencing last week. It would currently appear that last week's plunge was just a sharp correction in an otherwise bullish market, although it may be too soon to say that with any real confidence,” Erlam added.
In other data, initial US jobless claims increased by 7,000 to 230,000 for the week ended 10 February and the monthly average of claims rose by 3,500 to 228,500, after touching a 45-year low last week.
The number of people already collecting unemployment benefits expanded by 15,000 to 1.94 million, however, this figure was still markedly down from the 2.4 million people receiving benefits in the same week a year earlier.
Also the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia reported an unexpectedly faster rate of growth was reported in regional manufacturing activity in the month of February. The Philly Fed index for current manufacturing activity climbed to 25.8 in February from the 22.2 seen in January, despite economists projecting the index to drop to 21.1.
The surprise increase by the headline index was partially due to a strong growth in new orders which surged up to 24.5 in February from the 10.1 posted back in January.
Looking at the housing market, demand for new single-family homes held steady as the National Association of Home Builders' housing market index was flat at 72 for February.
Calculated by the results of a monthly survey conducted by the NAHB for more than 30 years, the NAHB/Wells Fargo housing market index revealed that the current single-family home sales index had dipped to 78 from 79, while the sales expectations index for the next six months rose to 80 from 78 and the traffic of prospective buyers index remained at 54.
“Builders are excited about the pro-business political climate that will strengthen the housing market and support overall economic growth,” NAHB Chairman Randy Noel said. “However, they need to manage supply-side construction hurdles, such as shortages of labour and lots and building material price increases.”
In currency markets, the dollar was down versus the pound, the euro and the yen.
Jameel Ahmad, global head of currency strategy and market research at FXTM, said, “In reference towards why traders are becoming encouraged to resume selling the dollar, it is likely linked to more clarification being provided following the EU GDP release this week, that showed the distance between economic recovery in the United States and other developed economies has continued to narrow.”
“The United States is basically not on a pedestal of its own anymore when it comes to conversations of stronger economic growth and increased interest rates. This provides an opportunity for traders to price in yield into currencies elsewhere,” he concluded.
In corporate news, technology group Cisco Systems gained 3.83% early on after it reported its first rise in quarterly revenue in more than two years on Wednesday and struck an upbeat note on profit for the current quarter.
TripAdvisor moved ahead 8.52% after the online travel company's quarterly earnings late on Wednesday beat expectations and Avon Products picked up 7.05% as its fourth-quarter profit came in ahead of analysts' expectations, but sales fell a little short, while e-commerce company Shopify dropped off 1.74% despite posting a 71% jump in fourth-quarter revenue.