Investors received a mixed bag of economic data presented on Thursday.
The Census Bureau announced Thursday that retail sales increased 0.7 percent over the previous month in August, surprising the market. Dow Jones polled economists, who predicted a 0.8 percent month-over-month decrease.
Meanwhile, the most recent weekly unemployment insurance figures indicate 332,000 first-time unemployed claims last week. Dow Jones polled economists, who predicted a total of 320,000 first claims.
On the plus side, Moderna shares increased 1.4 percent after the firm revealed further data on breakthrough Covid instances, which supports the drive for the widespread adoption of vaccine booster injections.
The three major U.S. market indices are all down for the month of September. After seven months of gains for the S&P 500 and an almost 20% surge to new highs this year, many on Wall Street anticipate choppy trading and reduced returns for the remainder of the year.
Friday is a critical date for the market because the last part of September has traditionally seen the poorest performance of the month. The S&P 500 generally peaks around September 17 before falling into late September.
The day also coincides with the expiry of stock options, index options, stock futures, and index futures — a quarterly occurrence known as "quadruple witching" or "triple witching" that can result in significant trading volume.
The Commerce Department's unexpected recovery in retail sales announced on Thursday defied falling consumer confidence. A rise in internet purchases drove sales, offsetting a continuing drop at vehicle dealerships. However, sales in July were significantly lower than expected.
Economists have been lowering their GDP forecasts for the current quarter, citing falling auto sales as a result of an acute inventory shortage and a surge in COVID-19 infections caused by the Delta form of the coronavirus.
Last month, retail sales increased by 0.7 percent. Retail sales fell 1.8 percent in July, rather than 1.1 percent as previously reported, according to updated data. Retail sales were expected to fall 0.8 percent, according to economists surveyed by Reuters. Sales climbed 15.1 percent year on year and are 17.7 percent higher than pre-pandemic levels.
They are holding up even as spending shifts away from commodities and toward services such as travel and entertainment. Retail sales are mostly comprised of products, with services such as healthcare, education, travel, and hotel accommodations accounting for the remainder of consumer expenditure.
After falling 4.6 percent in July, online retail sales increased by 5.3 percent in August. Most school districts began the 2021-2022 academic year in August, with in-person instruction resuming after the pandemic forced a move to online programs last year.
Qualifying households began receiving funds in mid-July under the extended child tax credit scheme, which will continue through December. Clothing shop sales increased by 0.1 percent last month. Receipts at building materials and furnishings businesses increased significantly.
However, car dealership sales fell 3.6 percent after falling 4.6 percent in July. A global scarcity of microchips is pushing automakers to reduce manufacturing.
The semiconductor scarcity, exacerbated by the newest COVID-19 wave, is also generating shortages of some electrical items.
There is also congestion at Chinese ports. Electronics and appliance shop sales decreased 3.1 percent. Receipts at athletic goods, hobby, musical instrument, and book stores also fell.
With coronavirus illnesses on the rise, visitation to restaurants and bars has dwindled, resulting in flat revenues. The sole service category in the retail sales report is restaurants and bars.
Retail sales increased 2.5 percent last month after falling 1.9 percent in July, excluding vehicles, fuel, building materials, and food services.