US stocks fall; Gap, Nordstrom sink on weak results

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Stocks fell in morning trading on Wall Street Wednesday as the market continues an unsettled period of trading ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday in the U.S.

The S&P 500 fell 0.5% as of 10:13 a.m. Eastern. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 131 points, or 0.4%, to 35,680 and the Nasdaq fell 0.7%.

Technology stocks were the biggest weights on the broader market. Autodesk slumped 16.6% after the design software company warned investors the pace of its recovery is being impacted by supply chain problems and pressure from inflation.

A mix of retailers that rely on direct consumer spending also fell broadly. Gap nosedived 23.1% after the clothing chain said supply chain problems crimped its third-quarter earnings and revenue. Department store operator Nordstrom plunged 29.4% after reporting weak third-quarter earnings.

Bond yields were steady. The yield on the 10-year Treasury remained at 1.67% from late Tuesday.

Energy stocks made gains as crude oil and natural gas prices rose modestly. Chevron rose 1.4%.

Supply chain problems and pressure from inflation have been key concerns for a wide range of industries. Many companies have warned that they are having trouble meeting demand and are dealing with higher costs for raw materials. Those higher costs are being passed off to consumers, who have been paying more for everything from food and other staples to a wide range of retail items.

Consumers have so far absorbed the higher costs, but analysts are closely watching to see whether there is any eventual pullback in spending, especially with the key holiday shopping season starting.

It's been an otherwise uneventful and short week for investors. Markets will be closed on Thursday for the Thanksgiving holiday and will close early on Friday.

Investors received several upbeat economic updates on Wednesday.

The Commerce Department reported that the U.S. economy slowed to a modest annual rate of 2.1% growth in the October-December quarter, slightly better than its first estimate. But economists are predicting a solid rebound in the current quarter as long as rising inflation and a recent uptick in COVID cases do not derail activity.

The Labor Department reported that the number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits plummeted last week to the lowest level in more than half a century, another sign that the U.S. job market is rebounding rapidly from last year’s coronavirus recession.

The Federal Reserve will release minutes later in the day from its October policy meeting, potentially giving investors more details on the central bank’s plan to start trimming bond purchases that have helped keep interest rates low.