The Nasdaq Composite briefly hit a fresh all-time high on Thursday, but pulled back quickly as Wall Street braced for highly anticipated testimony from former FBI Director James Comey on Capitol Hill.
Testimony from the ex-Federal Bureau of Investigation boss is part a litany of potentially market-moving events playing out in the next 24 hours. Those include a European Central Bank decision—which kept its monetary policy unchanged on Thursday—and a U.K. snap election.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +0.03% fell 14 points, or less than 0.1%, to 21,157, while the S&P 500 index SPX, -0.04% slipped about 4 points, or 0.2%, to 2,429. Meanwhile, the Nasdaq Composite Index COMP, -0.05% touched an intraday record of 6,311.89, but was most recently trading down 12 points, or 0.2% lower, at 6,285.
The ECB, as expected, left interest rates unchanged Thursday but said it continued to expect interest rates “to remain at present levels for an extended period of time, and well past the horizon” of its asset-buying program, which is set to run at least through December. In previous statements, the ECB had said it expected rates “to remain at present or lower levels for an extended period of time.” That alteration is seen as given the central bank scope to nudge rates higher in the future.
Moves in U.S. equities were choppy as investors traded cautiously ahead of the Comey hearing and after the ECB.
During the news conference Draghi described the risk to Europe as “broadly balanced,” suggesting growing optimism about the eurozone’s economic outlook., but though the altered language in the ECB’s policy statement appeared to crack the door to so-called normalization by the central bank, Draghi tried to avoid such a characterization during the news conference.
Investors also were focused on the U.K. general election, beyond the ECB and Comey.
In the U.K., voters headed to the polls in an election that turned out to be much more uncertain than anyone had predicted. Opinion polls are still giving Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative Party the lead, but the big question is whether the party will increase its majority in parliament. Polling stations close at 10 p.m. London time, or 5 p.m. Eastern, and the first exit polls will be released immediately after.
The pound GBPUSD, -0.3241% traded at a two-week high as voting got under way, buying $1.2943, compared with $1.2960 late Wednesday in New York.
Economic news: A reading on weekly jobless claims dropped by 10,000 to 245,000 in the seven days stretching from May 28 to June 3, hanging around the lowest levels in decades and suggesting that the labor market continues to chug along.
Looking ahead, a quarterly survey of services is due at 10 a.m. Eastern.
Stock movers: Shares of Yahoo! Inc. YHOO, +8.23% climbed 8% after news late Wednesday that up to 1,000 layoffs are expected at the combined Yahoo and AOL companies set to be bought by Verizon Communications Inc. VZ, -0.19%
Shares of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. BABA, +11.04% jumped 11% after the Chinese e-commerce giant said revenues are expected to grow between 45% and 49% in 2018.
Shares of Nordstrom Inc. JWN, +13.49% soared following reports that the retailer is exploring taking itself private. Shares were up 16.4% in premarket trade.
Other markets: Stocks in Asia closed mostly higher, although Japan’s Nikkei 225 index NIK, -0.38% bucked the positive trend. The losses in Tokyo came after the yen jumped on reports the Bank of Japan is running simulations of exits from quantitative easing.
European stocks were little changed ahead of the ECB meeting and the U.K. election result.