Tue, 21 Sep 2021

NEW YORK, July 31 (Xinhua) -- U.S. stocks declined for the week as investors parsed policy updates from the Federal Reserve and a slew of key economic data.

For the week ending Friday, the Dow and the S&P 500 both fell 0.4 percent, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite slid 1.1 percent.

The S&P U.S. Listed China 50 index, which is designed to track the performance of the 50 largest Chinese companies listed on U.S. exchanges by total market cap, logged a weekly loss of 4.4 percent.

The U.S. Federal Reserve on Wednesday kept its benchmark interest rate unchanged at the record-low level of near zero amid growing concerns over surging inflation and the rapid spread of the Delta variant.

"The path of the economy continues to depend on the course of the virus. Progress on vaccinations will likely continue to reduce the effects of the public health crisis on the economy, but risks to the economic outlook remain," the Fed said in a statement after concluding a two-day meeting.

At a virtual press conference Wednesday afternoon, Fed Chair Jerome Powell said that "we have some ground to cover on the labor market side."

The Fed chief also said that U.S. inflation will "remain elevated" in the coming months before moderating to normal levels due to supply bottlenecks.

"Fed policy remains unchanged, as expected," said Will Compernolle and Sophia Kearney-Lederman, senior economists at FHN Financial.

"The FOMC (Federal Open Market Committee) statement acknowledges the economy has made progress towards the goals needed to modify its asset purchases, but gives no clarity on what that timeline will look like," they said, adding investors may have to wait until the Fed's Jackson Hole economic symposium or more likely the September FOMC meeting for more answers.

A batch of latest data made investors to reassess the shape of economic recovery.

The U.S. economy grew at an annual rate of 6.5 percent in the second quarter of 2021, the U.S. Commerce Department reported Thursday. The reading was far below the 8.4-percent market estimate.

The increase in real GDP in the second quarter reflected increases in personal consumption expenditures, non-residential fixed investment, exports, and state and local government spending that were partly offset by decreases in private inventory investment, residential fixed investment, and federal government spending, the report showed.

"Consumers kept increasing their spending in Q2 but businesses can't keep up. Firms are drawing down inventories as they struggle to increase capacity," Compernolle and Kearney-Lederman said, noting "rapid price increases are giving a reality check to fast growth of nominal GDP."

Meanwhile, a separate report by the Department of Labor said U.S. initial jobless claims, a rough way to measure layoffs, decreased 24,000 to 400,000 in the week ending July 24. The level was above a Dow Jones estimate of 385,000.

Wall Street also looked to a key indicator on U.S. inflation.

Excluding food and energy, the personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index increased 0.4 percent last month, the U.S. Commerce Department reported on Friday.

The so-called core PCE price index jumped 3.5 percent in June from a year ago, following a 3.4-percent year-on-year increase in May, showed the report. The core PCE price index is the Federal Reserve's preferred inflation measure for its flexible 2-percent target.

"Worries over sticky inflation, peaking economic growth, and rising interest rates are together contributing to a wall of worry over the durability of the economic expansion - and by extension, the bull market," Mitch Zacks, CEO at Zacks Investment Management, said in a note on Saturday.

"To positively impact your long-term investments, we recommend concentrating on the facts and hard data," he said.

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