Wall St treads water ahead of key economic data; AMC soars

The S&P 500 was little changed on Wednesday ahead of key U.S. economic data due later in the week as investors weighed inflation concerns and a fresh surge in so-called “meme stocks.”

The S&P 500 energy sector, the best-performing group this year, extended its rise this week, gaining 1.7% as oil prices pushed higher. The materials sector fell 0.9% while a 3.7% fall in Tesla Inc shares dragged on the S&P and helped push the Nasdaq Composite lower.

A weekly unemployment report and May private payrolls data on Thursday will be followed by monthly jobs numbers on Friday, with investors looking for signs of an economic rebound and rising inflation.

“We’ve got very heavy economic data in the next two days,” said John Brady, senior vice president at R.J. O’Brien & Associates in Chicago. “The market is just treading water.”

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (.DJI) rose 21.91 points, or 0.06%, to 34,597.22, the S&P 500 (.SPX) gained 0.74 points, or 0.02%, at 4,202.78 and the Nasdaq Composite (.IXIC) dropped 31.26 points, or 0.23%, to 13,705.21.

The benchmark S&P 500 (.SPX) is up about 12% this year, and within about 1% of its record high, as investors anticipate an economic rebound from the coronavirus pandemic.

“After the fastest start to a bull market in history, we have seen expectations increase quite a bit so it’s harder to surprise the market,” said Keith Lerner, chief market strategist at Truist Advisory Services in Atlanta. “After we have had that big run the last six or seven weeks the market has been in a trading range and you are consolidating those gains.”

Concerns about whether inflation could prompt action by the Federal Reserve have consumed markets in recent weeks.

The U.S. economic recovery accelerated in recent weeks even as a long list of supply chain troubles, hiring difficulties, and rising prices cascaded through the country, Fed officials said in their latest review of economic conditions.

Philadelphia Fed Bank President Patrick Harker said that as the U.S. economy continues to recover from the coronavirus crisis and the labor market rebounds, it may be time for Fed policymakers to start thinking about the best way to slow the pace of its asset purchases.

Shares of AMC Entertainment Holdings (AMC.N) jumped 100.2%, leading a surge in a group of stocks favored by retail investors on forums such as Reddit’s WallStreetBets.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by a 1.22-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.29-to-1 ratio favored decliners.

The S&P 500 posted 56 new 52-week highs and no new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 115 new highs and 22 new lows.