Stocks were little changed Tuesday as traders considered a batch of new economic data, much of which pointed to ongoing labor shortages in the U.S. economy during the recovery.
The S&P 500 ended near the flat line to come within striking distance of its all-time high. The Dow fluctuated ended slightly lower, while the Nasdaq edged higher.
More signs of labor shortages emerged, with employers scrambling to find qualified workers to fill positions and meet surging demand during the post-pandemic recovery. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that job openings soared to a record more than 9 million in April. And a separate new sentiment survey showed a record 48% of small businesses reported that they had unfilled job openings last month.
Investors this week have also been digesting more signals from officials over the path forward for monetary and fiscal policies as the economy rebounds from the pandemic, and what these might suggest for interest rates and corporate earnings. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said over the weekend that higher interest rates “would actually be a plus for society’s point of view and the Fed’s point of view,” according to an interview with Bloomberg.
Traders, however, have been less convinced. Higher interest rates could weigh on stock valuations, and additional corporate tax reforms could additionally cut into profits for major companies. Amazon (AMZN) shares fell on Monday following a report that Group of Seven finance ministers were looking to include the e-commerce giant in new global tax proposal. And investors continue to eye negotiations between President Joe Biden and members of Congress for his multi-trillion-dollar infrastructure proposal, which would likely be funded in part by increased corporate taxes and may come in the form of a raised corporate tax floor.
Still, some strategists suggested investors’ concerns around the headline issues of inflation and tax reform may be overblown. A solid economic growth backdrop may help outweigh some of these rate or policy headwinds.
“We think investors are getting a bit too pessimistic as far as the outlook given inflation concerns and the increasing tax environment,” Jon Adams, BMO Global Asset Management strategist, told Yahoo Finance. “The backdrop of very supportive policy environment, strengthening economy, and very strong earnings momentum really portend gains for equities as we head toward the second half of the year.”
“We really prefer to position investors toward value with a tilt there, a tilt toward small caps. We think those areas of the equity spectrum perform well in rising inflationary periods,” he added. “We think equities are a pretty good hedge against potentially higher inflation, and we’re not as worried about the corporate tax environment given the headlines over the last week or so.”
4:03 p.m. ET: S&P 500 ends near the flat line; meme stock resurgence fuels rally in Clover Health, Wendy’s
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